Long Live the King
Mary Roberts Rinehart
Part 5 out of 8
"Yes. Madame the Countess - you would know, if you were
Etzel-born - Madame the Countess is lady-in-waiting to Her
Royal Highness, the Archduchess Annunciata."
"So!" said the driver. But he was not curious, and the broken
road demanded his attention. He was but newly come, so very
newly that he did not know his way, and once made a wrong
The Countess relaxed. She had not been followed. None but
themselves had left the train. She was sure of that. And
looking back, she satisfied herself that no stealthy
foot-traveler dogged their slow progress. She breathed
quietly, for the first time.
She slept that night. She had wired ahead of her coming, and
the old caretaker and his wife had opened a few rooms, her
boudoir and dressing-room, and a breakfast-room on the first
floor. They had swept the hall too, and built a fire there,
but it had been built for a great household, and its emptiness
At four o'clock in the morning she roused at the ringing of a
bell, telling that masses had already begun at the church. For
with the approach of Lent pilgrimages had greatly increased in
numbers. But she slept again, to waken to full sunlight,
When she had breakfasted and dressed, she went out on a
balcony, and looked down at the valley. It was late. Already
the peasants of Etzel had gone out to their fields. Children
played along its single streets. A few women on the steps of
the church made rosaries of beads which they strung with deft
fingers. A band of pilgrims struggled up the valley, the men
carrying their coats, for the sun was warm, and the women
holding their skirts from the dust.
As they neared the church, however, coats were donned. The
procession took on order and dignity. The sight was a familiar
one to the Countess. Her eyes dropped to the old wall below,
where in the sunshine the caretaker was beating a rug. Close
to him, in intimate and cautious conversation, was the driver
of the night before. Glancing up, they saw her and at once
Gone was peace, then. The Countess knew knew certainly. "Our
eyes see everywhere." Eyes, indeed, eyes that even now the
caretaker raised furtively from his rug.
Nevertheless, the Countess was minded to experiment, to be
certain. For none is so suspicious, she knew, as one who fears
suspicion. None so guilty as the guilty. During the forenoon
she walked through the woods, going briskly, with vigorous,
mountainbred feet. No crackle of underbrush disturbed her.
Swift turnings revealed no lurking figures skulking behind the
trunks of trees. But where an ancient stone bridge crossed a
mountain stream, she came on the huge driver of the night
before reflectively fishing.
He saluted her gravely, and the Countess paused and looked at
him. "You have caught no fish, my friend?" she said.
"No, madame. But one plays about my hook."
She turned back. Eyes everywhere, and arms, great hairy arms.
And feet that, for all their size, must step lightly!
Restlessness followed her. She was a virtual Prisoner, free
only in name. And the vigilance of the Terrorists obsessed
her. She found a day gone, and no plan made. She had come
here to think, and consecutive thought was impossible. She
went to vespers at the church, and sat huddled in a corner.
She suspected every eye that turned on her in frank curiosity.
When, during the "Salve Regina," the fathers, followed by their
pupils, went slowly down the aisle, in reverent procession
between rows of Pilgrims, she saw in their habits only a grim
reminder of the black disguises of the Terrorists.
On the second day she made a desperate resolve, and
characteristically put it into execution at once. She sent for
the caretaker. When he came, uneasy, for the Loscheks were
justly feared in the country side, and even the thing of which
he knew gave him small courage, she lost no time in evasion.
"Go," she said; "and bring here your accomplice - "
"My accomplice, madame! I do not - "
"You heard me," she said.
He turned, half sullen, half terrified, and paused. "Which do
you refer to, madame?"
She had seen only the one. Then there were others. Who could
tell how many others?
"The one who drove here."
So he went, leaving her to desperate reflection. When he
returned, it was to usher in the heavy figure of the spy.
"Which of you is in authority?" she demanded.
"I, madame." It was the spy who spoke.
She dismissed the caretaker with a gesture.
"Have you any discretion over me? Or must you refer matters to
those who sent you?"
"I must refer to them."
"How long will it take to send a message and receive a reply?"
He considered. "Until to-morrow night, madame."
Another day gone, then, and nothing determined!
"Now, listen," she said, "and listen carefully. I have come
here to decide a certain question. Whether you know what that
question is or not, does not matter. But before I decide it I
must take a certain journey. I wish to make that journey. It
is into Karnia."
She watched him. "It is impossible. My instructions - "
"I am not asking your permission. I wish to send a letter to
the Committee. They, and they alone, will determine this
thing. Will you send the letter?"
When he hesitated, perplexed, she got up and moved to her
"I shall write the letter," she said haughtily. "See that it
is sent. When I report at the end of the time that I have sent
such a letter, you can judge better than I the result if it has
not been received."
He was still dubious, but she wrote the letter and gave it to
him, her face proud and scornful. But she was not easy, for
all that, and she watched from her balcony to see if any
messenger left the castle and descended the mountain road. She
was rewarded, an hour later, by seeing a figure leave the old
gateway and start afoot toward the village, a pale-faced man
with colorless hair. A part of the hidden guard that
surrounded her, she knew, and somehow familiar. But, although
she racked her brains, she could not remember where she had
For the next twenty-four hours she waited. Life became one
long endurance. She hated the forest, since she might not
visit it alone. She hated the castle, because it was her
prison. She stood for hours that first day on her balcony,
surveying with scornful eyes the procession of the devout,
weary women, perspiring men, lines of children going to
something they did not comprehend, and carrying clenched in
small, warm hands drooping bunches of early mountain flowers.
And always, calling her to something she scorned, rang the
bells for mass or for vespers. The very tower below beckoned
her to peace - her, for whom there would never again be peace.
She cursed the bell savagely, put her fingers in her ears, to
be wakened at dawn the next morning to its insistent call.
There was no more sleep for her. She lay there in her bare
room and gave herself to bitter reflection. Here, in this very
castle, she had met Karl. That was eleven years before.
Prince Hubert was living. During a period of peace between the
two countries a truce had been arranged, treaties signed, with
every prospect of permanence. During that time Karl and
Hubert, glad of peace, had come here for the hunting. She
remembered the stir about their coming, her father's hurried
efforts to get things in order, the cleaning and refurbishing,
the peasants called in to serve the royal guests, and stripped
of their quaint costumes to be put into ill-fitting livery.
They had bought her a new frock for evening wear, the father
who was now dead, and the old aunt who had raised her - an ugly
black satin, too mature for her. She had put it on in that
very room, and wept in very despair.
Then came the arrival, her father on the doorstep, she and her
aunt behind him, and in the hall, lines of uneasy and shuffling
peasants. How awkward and ill at ease they must have seemed!
Then came the carriage, Hubert alighting first, then Karl.
Karl had seen her instantly, over her father's bent back.
Lying there, seeing things with the clear vision of the dawn,
she wondered whether, had she met Karl later, in her
sophisticated maturity, she would have fallen in love with him.
There was no way to know. He had dawned on her then, almost
the first man of rank she had ever seen. She saw him, not only
with fresh eyes, but through the halo of his position. He was
the Crown Prince of Karnia then, more dashing than Hubert, who
was already married and had always been a serious youth,
handsomer, a blond in a country of few blond men. His joyous
smile had not taken on the mocking twist it acquired later.
His blue eyes were gay and joyous.
When she had bowed and would have kissed his hand, it had been
Karl who kissed hers, and straightened to smile down at her.
"This is a very happy day, Countess," he had said.
Then the old aunt had hustled forward, and the peasants had
bowed nervously, and bustle and noise had filled the old place.
For four days the royal hunters had stayed. On the third day
Karl had pleaded fatigue, and they had walked through the pine
woods. On that very devil's bridge he had kissed her. They
had had serious talks, too. Karl was ambitious, even then.
The two countries were at peace, but for how long? Contrary to
opinion, he said, it was not rulers who led their people into
war. It was the people who forced those wars. He spoke of
long antagonisms, old jealousies, trade relations.
She had listened, flattered, had been an intelligent audience.
Even now, she felt that it was her intelligence as much as her
beauty that had ensnared Karl. For ensnared he had been. She
had dreamed wild dreams that night after he kissed her, dreams
of being his wife. She was not too young to know passion in a
man's eyes, and Karl's had burned with it.
Then, the next day, while the hunters were away, her aunt had
come to her, ugly, dowdy, and alarmed. "Little fool!" she had
said. "They play, these princes. But they are evil with
women, and dangerous. I have seen your eyes on him, sick with
love. And Karl will amuse himself - it is the blood - and go
She had been working with the satin dress, trying to make it
lovely for him. Over it her eyes had met her aunt's, small and
twitching with anxiety. "But suppose he cares for me?" she had
asked. "Sometimes I think - Why should you say he is evil?"
She had grown angry then and, flinging the dress on the floor,
had risen haughtily. "I think he will marry me," she had
announced, to be met with blank surprise, followed by cackling
Karl had gone away, kissing her passionately, before he left
her, in the dark hall. And many things had followed. A
cousin, married into Karnia became lady-in-waiting to the old
Queen. Olga Loschek had visited her. No accident all this,
but a carefully thought-out plan of Karl's. She had met Karl
again. She was no longer the ill-dressed, awkward girl of the
mountains, and his passion grew, rather than died.
He had made further love to her then, urged her to go away with
him on a journey to the eastern end of the kingdom, would,
indeed, have compromised her hopelessly. But, young as she
was, she had had courage and strength; perhaps shrewdness too.
Few women could have resisted him. He was gentleness itself
with her, kindly, considerate, passionate. But she had kept
And because she had kept her head, she had kept him. Through
his many lapses, his occasional mad adventures, he had always
come back to her. Having never possessed her, he had always
wanted her. But not enough, she said drearily to herself, to
pay the price of marriage.
She was fair enough to him. Nothing but a morganatic marriage
would be possible, and this would deprive his children of the
throne. But less than marriage she would not have.
The old Queen died. Her cousin retired to the country, and
raised pheasants for gayety. Olga Loschek's visits to Karnia
ceased. In time a place was made for her at the Court of
Livonia and a brilliant marriage for her was predicted. But
she did not marry. Now and then she retired to the castle near
the border, and Karl visited her there. And, at last, after
years, the inevitable happened.
She was deeply in love, and the years were passing. The burden
of resistance had always been on her, and marriage was out of
the question. She was alone now. Her father had died, and the
old aunt was in seclusion in a nunnery, where she pottered
around a garden and knitted endless garments for the poor.
For a time Olga had been very happy. Karl's motor crossed the
mountains, and he came on foot through the woods. No breath of
scandal touched her. And, outwardly, Karl did not change. He
was still her ardent lover. But the times when they could meet
And the Court of Livonia heard rumors - a gamekeeper's
daughter, an actress in his own capital, these were but two of
the many. Olga Loschek was clever. She never reproached him
or brought him to task. She had felt that, whatever his
lapses, the years had made her necessary to him.
The war that followed the truce had seen her Karl's spy in
Livonia. She had undertaken it that the burden of gratitude
should be on him - a false step, for men chafe under the
necessity for gratitude.
Then had come another peace, and his visit to the summer
palace. There he had seen Hedwig, grown since his last visit
to lovely girlhood, and having what Olga Loschek could never
again possess, youth.
And now he would marry her, and Olga Loschek, his tool and spy,
was in danger of her life.
That day, toward evening, the huge man presented himself. He
brought no letter, but an oral message. "Permission is given,
madame," he said. "I myself shall accompany you."
NIKKY MAKES A PROMISE
The Chancellor lived alone, in his little house near the
Palace, a house that looked strangely like him, overhanging
eyebrows and all, with windows that were like his eyes, clear
and concealing many secrets. A grim, gray little old house,
which concealed behind it a walled garden full of unexpected
charm. And that, too, was like the Chancellor.
In his study on the ground floor, overlooking the garden, the
Chancellor spent his leisure ,hours. Here, on the broad,
desk-like arm of his chair, where so many state documents had
lain for signature, most of his meals were served. Here, free
from the ghosts that haunted the upper rooms, he dreamed his
dream of a greater kingdom.
Mathilde kept his house for him, mended and pressed his
uniforms, washed and starched his linen, quarreled with the
orderly who attended him, and drove him to bed at night.
"It is midnight," she would say firmly - or one o'clock, or
even later, for the Chancellor was old, and needed little
sleep. "Give me the book." Because, if she did not take it,
he would carry it off to bed, and reading in bed is bad for the
"Just a moment, Mathilde," he would say, and finish a
paragraph. Sometimes he went on reading, and forgot about her,
to look up, a half-hour later, perhaps, and find her still
standing there, immobile, firm.
Then he would sigh, and close the book.
At his elbow every evening Mathilde placed a glass of milk. If
he had forgotten it, now he sipped it slowly, and the two
talked - of homely things, mostly, the garden, or moths in the
closed rooms which had lost, one by one, their beloved
occupants, or of a loose tile on the roof. But now and then
their conversation was more serious.
Mathilde, haunting the market with its gayly striped booths,
its rabbits hung in pairs by the ears, its strings of dried
vegetables, its lace bazaars Mathilde was in touch with the
people. It was Mathilde, and not one of his agents, who had
brought word of the approaching revolt of the coppersmiths'
guild, and enabled him to check it almost before it began. A
stoic, this Mathilde, with her tall, spare figure and glowing
eyes, stoic and patriot. Once every month she burned four
candles before the shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in the
cathedral, because of four sons she had given to her country.
On the evening of the day Hedwig had made her futile appeal to
the King, the Chancellor sat alone. His dinner, almost
untasted, lay at his elbow. It was nine o'clock. At something
after seven he had paid his evening visit to the King, and had
found him uneasy and restless.
"Sit down;" the King had said. "I need steadying, old friend."
"I have had a visit from Hedwig. Rather a stormy one, poor
child." He turned and fixed on his Chancellor his faded eyes.
"In this course that you have laid out, and that I am
following, as I always have," irony this, but some truth, too,
- "have you no misgivings? You still think it is the best
"It is the only thing."
"But all this haste," put in the King querulously.
"Is that so necessary? Hedwig begs for time. She hardly knows
"Time! But I thought - " He hesitated. How say to a dying
man that time was the one thing he did not have?
"Another thing. She was incoherent, but I gathered that there
was some one else. The whole interview was cyclonic. It
seems, however, that this young protege of yours, Larisch, has
been making love to her over Otto's head."
Mettlich's face hardened, a gradual process, as the news
penetrated in all its significance.
"I should judge," the King went on relentlessly, "that this
vaunted affection of his for the boy is largely assumed, a
cover for other matters. But," he added, with a flicker of
humor, "my granddaughter assures me that it is she who has made
the advances. I believe she asked him to elope with her, and
"A boy-and-girl affair, sire. He is loyal. And in all of
this, you and I are reckoning without Karl. The Princess
hardly knows him, and naturally she is terrified. But his
approaching visit will make many changes. He is a fine figure
of a man, and women - "
"Exactly;" said the King dryly. What the Chancellor meant was
that women always had loved Karl, and the King understood.
"His wild days are over," bluntly observed the Chancellor. "He
is forty, sire."
"Aye," said the King. "And at forty, a bad man changes his
nature, and purifies himself in marriage! Nonsense, Karl will
be as he has always been. But we have gone into this before.
Only, I am sorry for Hedwig. Hilda would have stood it better.
She is like her father. However" - his voice hardened "the
thing is arranged, and we must carry out our contract. Get rid
of this young Larisch."
The Chancellor sat reflecting, his chin dropped forward on his
breast. "Otto will miss him."
"Well, out with it. I may not dismiss him. What, then?"
"It is always easy to send men away. But it is sometimes
better to retain them, and force them to your will. We have
here an arrangement that is satisfactory. Larisch is keen,
young, and loyal. Hedwig has thrown herself at him. For that,
sire, she is responsible, not he."
"Then get rid of her," growled the King.
The Chancellor rose. "If the situation is left to me, sire,"
he said, "I will promise two things. That Otto will keep his
friend, and that the Princess Hedwig will bow to your wishes
without further argument."
"Do it, and God help you!" said the King, again with the
flicker of amusement.
The Chancellor had gone home, walking heavily along the
darkening streets. Once again he had conquered. The reins
remained in his gnarled old hands. And he was about to put the
honor of the country into the keeping of the son of Maria
Menrad, whom he had once loved.
So now he sat in his study, and waited. A great meerschaum
pipe, a stag's head with branching antlers and colored dark
with years of use, lay on his tray; and on his knee, but no
longer distinguishable in the dusk, lay an old daguerreotype of
When he heard Nikky's quick step as he came along the tiled
passage, he slipped the case into the pocket of his shabby
house-coat, and picked up the pipe.
Nikky saluted, and made his way across the room in the
twilight, with the ease of familiarity. "I am late, sir," he
apologized. "We found our man and he is safely jailed. He
made no resistance."
"Sit down," said the Chancellor. And, touching a bell, he
asked Mathilde for coffee. "So we have him," he reflected.
"The next thing is to discover if he knows who his assailants
were. That, and the person for whom he acted - However, I
sent for you for another reason. What is this about the
"The Princess Hedwig!"
"What folly, boy! A young girl who cannot know her own mind!
And for such a bit of romantic trifling you would ruin
yourself. It is ruin. You know that."
"I am sorry," Nikky said simply. "As far as my career goes, it
does not matter. But I am thinking of her."
"A trifle late."
"But," Nikky spoke up valiantly, "it is not romantic folly, in
the way you mean, sir. As long as I live, I shall - It is
hopeless, of course, sir."
"Madness," commented the Chancellor. "Sheer spring madness.
You would carry her off, I dare say, and hide yourselves at the
end of a rainbow! Folly!"
Nikky remained silent, a little sullen.
"The Princess went to the King with her story this evening."
The boy started. "A cruel proceeding, but the young are always
cruel. The expected result has followed: the King wishes you
"I am at his command, sir."
The Chancellor filled his pipe from a bowl near by, working
deliberately. Nikky sat still, rather rigid.
"May I ask," he said at last, "that you say to the King that
the responsibility is mine? No possible blame can attach to
the Princess Hedwig. I love her, and - I am not clever. I
show what I feel."
He was showing it then, both hurt and terror, not for himself,
but for her. His voice shook in spite of his efforts to be
every inch a soldier.
"The immediate result," said the Chancellor cruelly, "will
doubtless be a putting forward of the date for her marriage."
Nikky's hands clenched. "A further result would be your
dismissal from the army. One does not do such things as you
have done, lightly."
"Lightly!" said Nikky Larisch. "God!"
"But," continued the Chancellor, "I have a better way. I have
faith, for one thing, in your blood. The son of Maria Menrad
must be - his mother's son. And the Crown Prince is attached
to you. Not for your sake, but for his, I am inclined to be
lenient. What I shall demand for that leniency is that no word
of love again pass between you and the Princess Hedwig."
"It would be easier to go away."
"Aye, of course. But 'easier' is not your word nor mine." But
Nikky's misery touched him. He rose and placed a heavy hand on
the boy's shoulder. "It is not as simple as that. I know,
boy. But you are young, and these things grow less with time.
You need not see her. She will be forbidden to visit Otto or
to go to the riding-school. You see, I know about the
riding-school! And, in a short time now, the marriage will
solve many difficulties."
Nikky closed his eyes. It was getting to be a habit, just as
some people crack their knuckles.
"We need our friends about us," the Chancellor continued. "The
Carnival is coming, - always a dangerous time for us. The King
grows weaker day by day. A crisis is impending for all of us,
and we need you."
Nikky rose, steady enough now, but white to the lips.
"I give my word, sir," he said. "I shall say no word of - of
how I feel to Hedwig. Not again. She knows and I think," he
added proudly, "that she knows I shall not change. That I
shall always - "
"Exactly!" said the Chancellor. It was the very, pitch of the
King's dry old voice. "Of course she knows, being a woman.
And now, good-night."
But long after Nikky had gone he sat in the darkness. He felt
old and tired and a hypocrite. The boy would not forget, as he
himself had not forgotten. His hand, thrust into his pocket,
rested on the faded daguerreotype there.
Peter Niburg was shot at dawn the next morning. He went, a
coward, to his death, held between two guards and crying
piteously. But he died a brave man. Not once in the long
hours of his interrogation had he betrayed the name of the
The Crown Prince Ferdinand William Otto of Livonia was having a
birthday. Now, a birthday for a Crown Prince of Livonia is not
a matter of a cake with candles on it; and having his ears
pulled, once for each year and an extra one to grow on. Nor of
a holiday from lessons, and a picnic in spring woods. Nor of a
party, with children frolicking and scratching the best
In the first place, he was wakened at dawn and taken to early
service in the chapel, a solemn function, with the Court
assembled and slightly sleepy. The Crown Prince, who was
trying to look his additional dignity of years, sat and stood
as erect as possible, and yawned only once.
After breakfast he was visited by the chaplain who had his
religious instruction in hand, and interrogated. He did not
make more than about sixty per cent in this, however, and the
chaplain departed looking slightly discouraged.
Lessons followed, and in each case the tutor reminded him that,
having now reached his tenth birthday, he should be doing
better than in the past. Especially the French tutor, who had
just heard a rumor of Hedwig's marriage.
At eleven o'clock came word that the King was too ill to have
him to luncheon, but that he would see him for a few moments
that afternoon. Prince Ferdinand William Otto, who was
diagramming the sentence, "Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in
America," and doing it wrong, looked up in dismay.
"I'd like to know what's the use of having a birthday," he
The substitution of luncheon with the Archduchess Annunciata
hardly thrilled him. Unluckily he made an observation to that
effect, and got five off in Miss Braithwaite's little book.
The King did not approve of birthday gifts. The expensive toys
which the Court would have offered the child were out of key
with the simplicity of his rearing. As a matter of fact, the
Crown Prince had never heard of a birthday gift, and had,
indeed, small experience of gifts of any kind, except as he
made them himself. For that he had a great fondness. His
small pocket allowance generally dissipated itself in this way.
So there were no gifts. None, that is, until the riding-hour
came, and Nikky, subverter of all discipline. He had brought a
fig lady, wrapped in paper.
"It's quite fresh," he said, as they walked together across the
Place. "I'll give it to you when we get to the riding-school.
I saw the woman myself take it out of her basket. So it has no
germs on it."
But, although he spoke bravely, Nikky was the least bit
nervous. First of all he was teaching the boy deception. "But
why don't they treat him like a human being?" he demanded of
himself. Naturally there was no answer. Maria Menrad's son
had a number of birthdays in his mind, real birthdays with much
indulgence connected with them.
Second, suppose it really had a germ or two on it? Anxiously,
having unwrapped it, he examined it in the sunlight of a window
of the ring. Certainly, thus closely inspected, it looked odd.
There were small granules over it.
The Crown Prince waited patiently. "Miss Braithwaite says that
if you look at them under a glass, there are bugs on them," he
observed, with interest.
"Perhaps, after all, you'd better not have it."
"They are very small bugs," said Prince Ferdinand William Otto
anxiously. "I don't object to them at all."
So, after all, Nikky uneasily presented his gift; and nothing
untoward happened. He was rewarded, however, by such a glow of
pleasure and gratitude from the boy that his scruples faded.
No Hedwig again, to distract Nikky's mind. The lesson went on;
trot, canter, low jumps. And then what Nikky called "stunts,"
an American word which delighted the Crown Prince.
But, Nikky, like the big child he was himself, had kept his
real news to the last.
Already, he was offering himself on the altar of the child's
safety. Behind his smiles lay something of the glow of the
martyr. His eyes were sunken, his lips drawn. He had not
slept at all, nor eaten. But to the boy he meant to show no
failing, to be the prince of playmates, the brother of joy.
Perhaps in this way, he felt, lay his justification.
So now, with the Crown Prince facing toward the Palace again,
toward luncheon with his aunt and a meeting with the
delegation, Nikky, like an epicure of sensations, said: "By the
way, Otto, I found that dog you saw yesterday. What was his
"Where did you find him? Yes, Toto!"
"I looked him up," said Nikky modestly. "You see, it's like
this: He's a pretty nice dog. There aren't many dogs like him.
And I thought - well, nobody can say I can't have a dog."
"You've got him? You, yourself?"
"I, myself. I dare say he has fleas, and they will get in the
carpet, but - I tell you what I thought: He will be really your
dog, do you see? I'll take care of him, and keep him for you,
and bring him out to walk where you can see him. Then, when
they say you may have a dog, you've got one, already. All I
have to do is to bring him to you."
Wise Nikky, of the understanding boy's heart. He had brought
into the little Prince's life its first real interest,
something vital, living. And something of the soreness and
hurt of the last few hours died in Nikky before Prince
Ferdinand William Otto's smile.
"Oh, Nikky!" was all the child said at first, and grew silent
for very happiness. Then: "We can talk about him. You can
tell me all the things he does, and I can send him bones, can't
I? Unless you don't care to carry them."
This, in passing, explains the reason why, to the eyes of
astonished servants, from that day forth the Crown Prince of
Livonia apparently devoured his chop, bone and all. And why
Nikky resembled, at times, a well-setup, trig, and soldierly
appearing charnel-house. "If I am ever arrested," he once
demurred, "and searched, Highness, I shall be consigned to a
Luncheon was extremely unsuccessful. His Cousin Hedwig looked
as though she had been crying, and Hilda, eating her soup too
fast, was sent from the table. The Crown Prince, trying to
make conversation, chose Nikky as his best subject, and met an
icy silence. Also, attempting to put the bone from a chicken
leg in his pocket, he was discovered.
"What in the world!" exclaimed the Archduchess. "What do you
want of a chicken bone? "
"I just wanted it, Tante."
"It is greasy. Look at your fingers!"
"Mother," Hedwig said quietly, "it is his birthday."
"I do not need you to remind me of that. Have I not been up
since the middle of the night, for that reason?"
But she said no more, and was a trifle more agreeable during
the remainder of the meal. She was just a bit uneasy before
Hedwig those days. She did not like the look in her eyes.
That afternoon, attired in his uniform of the Guards, the Crown
Prince received the delegation of citizens in the great
audience, chamber of the Palace, a solitary little figure,
standing on the red carpet before the dais at the end. Behind
him, stately with velvet hangings, was the tall gilt chair
which some day would be his. Afternoon sunlight, coming
through the long windows along the side, shone on the prisms of
the heavy chandeliers, lighted up the paintings of dead and
gone kings of his line, gleamed in great mirrors and on the
On each side of his small figure the Council grouped itself,
fat Friese, rat-faced Marschall, Bayerl, with his soft voice
and white cheeks lighted by hot eyes, and the others. They
stood very stiff, in their white gloves. Behind them were
grouped the gentlemen of the Court, in full dress and decorated
with orders. At the door stood the Lord Chamberlain, very
gorgeous in scarlet and gold.
The Chancellor stood near the boy, resplendent in his dress
uniform, a blue ribbon across his shirt front, over which
Mathilde had taken hours. He was the Mettlich of the public
eye now, hard of features, impassive, inflexible.
In ordinary times less state would have been observed, a
smaller room, Mettlich only, or but one or two others, an
informal ceremony. But the Chancellor shrewdly intended to do
the delegation all honor, the Palace to give its best, that the
city, in need, might do likewise.
And he had staged the affair well. The Crown Prince, standing
alone, so small, so appealing, against his magnificent
background, was a picture to touch the hardest. Not for
nothing had Mettlich studied the people, read their essential
simplicity, their answer to any appeal to the heart. These men
were men of family. Surely no father of a son could see that
lonely child and not offer him loyalty.
With the same wisdom, he had given the boy small instruction,
and no speech of thanks. "Let him say what comes into his
head," Mettlich had reasoned. "It will at least be spontaneous
The Crown Prince was somewhat nervous. He blinked rapidly as
the delegation entered and proceeded up the room. However,
happening at that moment to remember Nikky with the brass
inkwell, he forgot himself in amusement. He took a good look
at the gold casket, as it approached, reverently borne, and
rather liked its appearance. It would have been, he reflected,
extremely convenient to keep things in, pencils and erasers, on
his desk. But, of course, he would not have it to keep. Quite
a number of things passed into his possession and out again
with the same lightning-like rapidity.
The first formalities over, and the Crown Prince having shaken
hands nine times, the spokesman stepped forward. He had
brought a long, written speech, which had already been given to
the newspapers. But after a moment's hesitation he folded it
"Your Royal Highness," he said, looking down, "I have here a
long speech, but all that it contains I can say briefly. It is
your birthday, Highness. We come, representing many others, to
present to you our congratulations, and - the love of your
people. It is our hope" - He paused. Emotion and excitement
were getting the better of him - "our hope, Highness, that you
will have many happy years. To further that hope, we are here
to-day to say that we, representing all classes, are your most
loyal subjects. We have fought for His Majesty the King, and
if necessary we will fight for you." He glanced beyond the
child at the Council, and his tone was strong and impassioned:
"But to-day we are here, not to speak of war, but to present to
you our congratulations, our devotion, and our loyalty."
Also a casket. He had forgotten that. He stepped back, was
nudged, and recollected.
"Also a gift," he said, and ruined a fine speech among smiles.
But the presentation took place in due order, and Otto cleared
"Thank you all very much," he said. "It is a very beautiful
gift. I admire it very much. I should like to keep it on my
desk, but I suppose it is too valuable. Thank you very much."
The spokesman hoped that it might be arranged that he keep it
on his desk, an ever-present reminder of the love of his city.
To this the Chancellor observed that it would be arranged, and
the affair was over. To obviate the difficulty of having the
delegation back down the long room, it was the Crown Prince who
departed first, with the Chancellor.
Altogether, it was comfortably over, and the Chancellor
reflected grimly that the boy had done well. He had made
friends of the delegation at a time when he needed friends. As
they walked along the long corridors of the Palace together,
the Chancellor was visualizing another scene, which must come
soon, pray God with as good result: the time when, the old King
dead and the solemn bell of the cathedral tolling, this boy
would step out on to the balcony overlooking the Place, and
show himself to the great throng below the windows.
To offset violence and anarchy itself, only that one small
figure on the balcony!
Late in the afternoon the King sent for Prince Ferdinand
William Otto. He had not left his bed since the day he had
placed the matter of Hedwig's marriage before the Council, and
now he knew he would never leave it. There were times between
sleeping and waking when he fancied he had already gone, and
that only his weary body on the, bed remained. At such times
he saw Hubert, only, strangely enough, not as a man grown, but
as a small boy again; and his Queen, but as she had looked many
years before, when he married her, and when at last, after
months of married wooing, she had crept willing into his arms.
So, awakening from a doze, he saw the boy there, and called him
Hubert. Prince Ferdinand William Otto, feeling rather worried,
did the only thing he could think of. He thrust his warm hand
into his grandfather's groping one, and the touch of his soft
flesh roused the King.
The Sister left them together, and in her small room dropped on
her knees before the holy image. There, until he left, she
prayed for the King's soul, for the safety and heavenly
guidance of the boy. The wind stirred her black habit and
touched gently her white coif. She prayed, her pale lips
In the King's bedchamber Prince Ferdinand William Otto sat on a
high chair, and talked. He was extremely relieved that his
exile was over, but he viewed his grandfather, with alarm. His
aunt had certainly intimated that his running away had made the
King worse. And he looked very ill.
"I'm awfully sorry, grandfather," he said.
"That I went away the other day, sir."
"It was, after all, a natural thing to do."
The Crown Prince could hardly believe his ears.
"If it could only be arranged safely - a little freedom - "
The King lay still with closed eyes.
Prince Ferdinand William Otto felt uneasy. "But I am very
comfortable, and - and happy," he hastened to say. "You are,
please, not to worry about me, sir. And about the paper I
threw at Monsieur Puaux the other day, I am sorry about that
too. I don't know exactly why I did it."
The King still held his hand, but he said nothing. There were
many things he wanted to say. He had gone crooked where this
boy must go straight. He had erred, and the boy must avoid his
errors. He had cherished enmities, and in his age they
cherished him. And now -
"May I ask you a question, sir?"
"What is it?"
"Will you tell me about Abraham Lincoln?"
"Why?" The King was awake enough now. He fixed the Crown
Prince with keen eyes.
"Well, Miss Braithwaite does not care for him. She says he was
not a great man, not as great as Mr. Gladstone, anyhow. But
Bobby - that's the boy I met; I told you about him - he says he
was the greatest man who ever lived."
"And who," asked the King, "do you regard as the greatest man?"
Prince Ferdinand William Otto fidgeted, but he answered
bravely, "You, sir."
"Humph!" The King lay still, smiling slightly. "Well," he
observed, "there are, of course, other opinions as to that.
However - Abraham Lincoln was a very great man. A dreamer, a
visionary, but a great man. You might ask Miss Braithwaite to
teach you his 'Gettysburg Address.' It is rather a model as to
speech-making, although it contains doctrines that - well,
you'd better learn it."
He smiled again, to himself. It touched his ironic sense of
humor that he, who had devoted his life to maintaining that all
men are not free and equal, when on that very day that same
doctrine of liberty was undermining his throne - that he should
be discussing it with the small heir to that throne.
"Yes, sir," said Prince Ferdinand William Otto. He hoped it
was not very long.
"Otto," said the King suddenly, "do you ever look at your
"You might - look at it now and then. I'd like you to do it."
THE GATE OF THE MOON
A curious friendship had sprung up between old Adelbert and
Bobby Thorpe. In off hours, after school, the boy hung about
the ticket-taker's booth, swept now to a wonderful cleanliness
and adorned within with pictures cut from the illustrated
papers. The small charcoal fire was Bobby's particular care.
He fed and watched it, and having heard of the baleful effects
of charcoal fumes, insisted on more fresh air than old Adelbert
had ever breathed before.
"You see," Bobby would say earnestly, as he brushed away at the
floor beneath the burner, "you don't know that you are being
asphyxiated. You just feel drowsy, and then, poof! - you're
Adelbert, dozing between tickets, was liable to be roused by a
vigorous shaking, to a pair of anxious eyes gazing at him, and
to a draft of chill spring air from the open door.
"I but dozed," he would explain, without anger. "All my life
have I breathed the fumes and nothing untoward has happened."
Outwardly he was peaceful. The daughter now received his
pension in full, and wrote comforting letters. But his
resentment and bitterness at the loss of his position at the
Opera continued, even grew.
For while he had now even a greater wage, and could eat three
meals, besides second breakfast and afternoon coffee, down deep
in his heart old Adelbert felt that he had lost caste. The
Opera - that was a setting! Great staircases of marble, velvet
hangings, the hush before the overture, and over all the magic
and dignity of music. And before his stall had passed and
repassed the world - royalties, the aristocracy, the army. Hoi
polloi had used another entrance by which to climb to the upper
galleries. He had been, then, of the elect. Aristocrats who
had forgotten their own opera-glasses had requested him to give
them of his best, had through long years learned to know him
there, and had nodded to him as they swept by. The flash of
jewels on beautiful necks, the glittering of decorations on
uniformed chests, had been his life.
And now, to what had he fallen! To selling tickets for an
American catch-penny scheme, patronized by butchers, by
housemaids, by the common people a noisy, uproarious crowd,
that nevertheless counted their change with suspicious eyes,
and brought lunches in paper boxes, which they scattered about.
"Riff-raff!" he said to himself scornfully.
There was, however, a consolation. He had ordered a new
uniform. Not for twenty years had he ventured the
extravagance, and even now his cautious soul quailed at the
price. For the last half-dozen years he had stumped through
the streets, painfully aware of shabbiness, of a shiny back, of
patches, when, on the anniversary of the great battle to which
he had sacrificed a leg, the veterans marched between lines of
Now, on this approaching anniversary, he could go peacefully,
nay, even proudly. The uniform was of the best cloth, and on
its second fitting showed already its marvel of tailoring. The
news of it had gone around the neighborhood. The tailor
reported visits from those who would feel of the cloth, and
figure its expensiveness. In the evening - for he worked only
until seven - he had his other preparations: polishing his
sword, cleaning his accouterments.
On an evening a week before the parade would occur, he got out
his boots. He bought always large boots with straight soles,
the right not much different from the left in shape. Thus he
managed thriftily to wear, on his one leg, first one of the
pair, then the other. But they were both worn now, and because
of the cost of the new uniform, he could not buy others.
Armed with the better of the two he visited the cobbler's shop,
and there met with bitter news.
"A patch here, and a new heel, comrade," he said. "With that
and a polishing, it will do well enough for marching."
The usual group was in the shop, mostly young men, a scattering
of gray heads. The advocates of strange doctrines, most of
them. Old Adelbert disapproved of them, regarded them with a
sort of contempt.
Now he felt that they smiled behind his back. It was his
clothing, he felt. He shrugged his shoulders disdainfully. He
no longer felt ashamed before them. Already, although the
tailor still pressed its seams and marked upon it with chalk,
he was clad in the dignity of the new uniform.
He turned and nodded to them. "A fine evening," he said. "If
this weather holds, we will have -a good day for the marching."
He squinted a faded eye at the sky outside.
Old Adelbert turned on the speaker sharply. "Probably you have
forgotten," he said scornfully, "but in a week comes an
anniversary there are many who will remember. The day of a
great battle. Perhaps," he added, "if you do not know of what
I speak, there are some here who will tell you."
Unexpectedly the crowd laughed.
Old Adelbert flushed a dusky red and drew himself up. "Since
when," he demanded, "does such a speech bring laughter? It was
no laughing matter then."
"It is the way of the old to live in the past," a student said.
Then, imitating old Adelbert's majestic tone: "We, we live in
the future. Eh, comrades?" He turned to the old soldier: "You
have not seen the bulletins?"
"There will be no marching, my friend. The uniform now - that
is a pity. Perhaps the tailor - " His eyes mocked.
"An order of the Council. It seems that the city is bored by
these ancient-reminders. It is for peace, and would forget
wars. And processions are costly. We grow thrifty. Bands and
fireworks cost money, and money, my hero, is scarce - very
Again the group laughed.
After a time he grasped the truth. There was such an order.
The cause was given as the King's illness.
"Since when," demanded old Adelbert angrily, "has the sound of
his soldiers' marching disturbed the King?"
"The sound of wooden legs annoys him," observed the mocking
student, lighting a cigarette. "He would hear only pleasant
sounds, such as the noise of tax-money pouring into his vaults.
Me - I can think of a pleasanter: the tolling of the cathedral
bell, at a certain time, will be music to my ears!"
Old Adelbert stood, staring blindly ahead. At last he went out
into the street, muttering. "They shame us before the people,"
he said thickly.
The order of the Council had indeed been issued, a painful
business over which Mettlich and the Council had pondered long.
For, in the state of things, it was deemed unwise to permit any
gathering of the populace en masse. Mobs lead to riots, and
riots again to mobs. Five thousand armed men, veterans, but
many of them in their prime, were in themselves a danger. And
on these days of anniversary it had been the custom of the
University to march also, a guard of honor. Sedition was rife
among the students.
The order was finally issued...
Old Adelbert was not keen, but he did not lack understanding.
And one thing he knew, and knew well. The concierge,
downstairs was no patriot. Time had been when, over coffee and
bread, he had tried to instill in the old soldier his own
discontent, his new theories of a land where all were equal and
no man king. He had hinted of many who believed as he did.
Only hints, because old Adelbert had raised a trembling hand
and proclaimed treason.
Late in the evening he made his resolve, and visited the bureau
of the concierge. He was away, however, and his niece spoke
through the barred window.
"Two days, or perhaps three," she said. "He is inspecting a
farm in the country, with a view to purchase."
The old soldier had walked by the Palace that night, and had
again shaken his fist at its looming shadow. "You will see,"
he said, "there be other sounds more painful than the thump of
a wooden leg."
He was ill that night. He tossed about in a fever. His body
ached, even the leg which so long ago had mouldered in its
shallow grave on a battle-field. For these things happen. By
morning he was better, but he was a different man. His eyes
glowed. His body twitched. He was stronger, too, for now he
broke his sword across his knee, and flung the pieces out of
the window. And with them went the last fragment of his old
loyalty to his King.
Old Adelbert was now, potentially, a traitor.
The spring came early that year. The last of February saw the
parks green. Snowdrops appeared in the borders of paths. The
swans left their wooden houses and drifted about in water much
colder than the air. Bobby abandoned the aeroplane for a kite
and threw it aloft from Pike's Peak. At night, when he
undressed, marbles spilled out of his pockets and rolled under
the most difficult furniture. Although it was still cold at
nights and in the early mornings, he abandoned the white
sweater and took to looking for birds and nests in the trees of
the park. It was, of course, much too early for nests, but
nevertheless he searched, convinced that even if grown-ups
talked wisely of more cold weather, he and the birds knew it
was spring. And, of course, the snow-drops.
On the morning after old Adelbert had turned his back on his
King, Bobby Thorpe rose early, so early, indeed, that even Pepy
still slept in her narrow bed, and the milk-sellers had not
started on their rounds. The early rising was a mistake, owing
to a watch which had strangely gained an hour.
Somewhat disconsolately, he wandered about. Heavy quiet
reigned. From a window he watched the meat-seller hang out a
freshly killed deer, just brought from the mountains He went
downstairs and out on the street, past the niece of the
concierge, who was scrubbing the stairs.
"I'm going for a walk," he told her. "If they send Pepy down
you might tell her I'll be back for breakfast."
He stood for a time surveying the deer. Then he decided to go
hunting himself. The meat-seller obligingly gave him the
handle of a floor-brush, and with this improvised gun Bobby
went deer-stalking. He turned into the Park, going stealthily,
and searching the landscape with keen hunter's eyes. Once or
twice he leveled his weapon, killed a deer, cut off the head,
and went on. His dog trotted, at his heels. When a
particularly good shot presented itself, Bobby said, "Down,
Tucker," and Tucker, who played extremely well, would lie down,
ears cocked, until the quarry was secured.
Around the old city gate, still standing although the wall of
which it had been a part was gone, there was excellent hunting.
Here they killed and skinned a bear, took fine ivory tusks from
a dead elephant, and searched for the trail of a tiger.
The gate was an excellent place for a tiger. Around it was
planted an almost impenetrable screen of evergreens, so thick
that the ground beneath was quite bare of grass. Here the two
hunters crawled on stomachs that began to feel a trifle empty,
and here they happened on the trail.
Tucker found it first. His stumpy tail grew rigid. Nose to
the ground, he crawled and wriggled through the undergrowth,
Bobby at his heels. And now Bobby saw the trail, footprints.
It is true that they resembled those of heavy boots with nails.
But on the other hand, no one could say surely that the
nail-marks were not those of claws.
Tucker circled about. The trail grew more exciting. Bobby had
to crawl on hands and feet under and through thickets.
Branches had been broken as by the passage of some large body.
The sportsman clutched his weapon and went on.
An hour later the two hunters returned for breakfast. Washing
did something to restore the leader to a normal appearance, but
a wondering family discovered him covered with wounds and
"Why, Bob, where have "you been?" his mother demanded. "Why, I
never saw so many scratches!"
"I've been hunting," he replied briefly. "They don't hurt
Then he relapsed into absorbed silence. His mother, putting
cream on his cereal, placed an experienced hand on his
forehead. "Are you sure you feel well, dear?" she asked. "I
think your head is a little hot."
"I'm all right, mother."
She was wisely silent, but she ran over in her mind the spring
treatment for children at home. The blood, she felt, should be
thinned after a winter of sausages and rich cocoa. She
mentally searched her medicine case.
A strange thing happened that day. A broken plate disappeared
from the upper shelf of a closet, where Pepy had hidden it;
also a cup with a nick in it, similarly concealed; also the
heel of a loaf of bread. Nor was that the end. For three days
a sort of magic reigned in Pepy's kitchen. Ten potatoes, laid
out to peel, became eight. Matches and two ends of candle
walked out, as it were, on their own feet. A tin pan with a
hole in it left the kitchen-table and was discovered hiding in
Bobby's bureau, when the Fraulein put away the washing.
On the third day Mrs. Thorpe took her husband into their room
and closed the door.
"Bob," she said, "I don't want to alarm you. But there is
something wrong with Bobby."
"Sick, you mean?"
"I don't know." Her voice was worried. "He's not a bit like
himself. He is always away, for one thing. And he hardly eats
"He looks well enough nourished!"
"And he comes home covered with mud. I have never seen his
clothes in such condition. And last night, when he was
bathing, I went into the bathroom. He is covered with
"Now see here, mother," the hunter's father protested, "you're
the parent of a son, a perfectly hardy, healthy, and normal
youngster, with an imagination. Probably he's hunting Indians.
I saw him in the Park yesterday with his air-rifle. Any how,
just stop worrying and let him alone. A scratch or two won't
hurt him. And as to his not eating, - well, if he's not eating
at home he's getting food somewhere, I'll bet you a hat."
So Bobby was undisturbed, save that the governess protested
that he heard nothing she told him, and was absent-minded at
his lessons. But as she was always protesting about something,
no one paid any attention. Bobby drew ahead on his pocket
allowance without question, and as his birthday was not far
off, asked for "the dollar to grow on" in advance. He always
received a dollar for each year, which went into the bank, and
a dollar to grow on, which was his own to spend.
With the dollar he made a number of purchases candles and
candlestick, a toy pistol and caps, one of the masks for the
Carnival, now displayed in all the windows, a kitchen-knife,
wooden plates, and a piece of bacon.
Now and then he appeared at the Scenic Railway, abstracted and
viewing with a calculating eye the furnishings of the
engine-room and workshop. From there disappeared a broken
chair, a piece of old carpet, discarded from a car, and a large
padlock, but the latter he asked for and obtained.
His occasional visits to the Railway, however, found him in old
Adelbert's shack. He filled his pockets with charcoal from the
pail beside the stove, and made cautious inquiries as to
methods of cooking potatoes. But the pall of old Adelbert's
gloom penetrated at last even through the boy's abstraction.
"I hope your daughter is not worse," he said politely, during
one of his visits to the ticket-booth.
"She is well. She recovers strength rapidly."
"And the new uniform - does it fit, you?"
"I do not know," said old Adelbert grimly. "I have not seen it
"On the day of the procession we are all going to watch for
you. I'll tell you where we twill be, so you can look for us."
"There will be no procession."
Then to the boy old Adelbert poured out the bitterness of his
soul. He showed where he had torn down the King's picture, and
replaced it with one of a dying stag. He reviewed his days in
the hospital, and the hardships through which he had passed, to
come to this. The King had forgotten his brave men.
Bobby listened. "Pretty soon there won't be any kings," he
observed. "My father says so. They're out of date."
"Aye," said old Adelbert.
"It would be kind of nice if you had a president. Then, if he
acted up, you could put him out."
"Aye," said old Adelbert again.
During the rest of the day Bobby considered. No less a matter
than the sharing of a certain secret occupied his mind. Now;
half the pleasure of a secret is sharing it, naturally, but it
should be with the right person. And his old playfellow was
changed. Bobby, reflecting, wondered whether old Adelbert
would really care to join his pirate crew, consisting of Tucker
and himself. On the next day, however, he put the matter to
the test, having resolved that old Adelbert needed distraction
"You know," he said, talking through the window of the booth, "
I think when I grow up I'll be a pirate."
"There be worse trades," said old Adelbert, whose hand was now
against every man.
"And hide treasure," Bobby went on. "In a - in a cave, you
know. Did you ever read 'Treasure Island'?"
"I may have forgotten it. I have read many things."
"You'd hardly forget it. You know -
'Fifteen men on a dead man's chest
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.'"
Old Adelbert rather doubted the possibility of fifteen men on
one dead man's chest, but he nodded gravely. "A spirited
song," he observed.
Bobby edged closer to the window. "I've got the cave already."
"Here, in the Park. It is a great secret. I'd like to show it
to you. Only it's rather hard to get to. I don't know whether
you'd care to crawl through the bushes to it."
"A cave - here in the Park?"
"I'll take you, if you'd like to see it."
Old Adelbert was puzzled. The Park offered, so far as he knew,
no place for a cave. It was a plain, the site of the old wall;
and now planted in grass and flowers. He himself had seen it
graded and sown. A cave!
"That's a secret. But I'll show it to you, if you won't tell."
Old Adelbert agreed to silence. In fact, he repeated after the
boy, in English he did not understand, a most blood-curdling
oath of secrecy, and made the pirate sign - which, as every one
knows, is a skull and crossbones - in the air with his
"This cave," he said, half smiling, "must be a most momentous
Until midday, when the Railway opened for business, the old
soldier was free. So the next morning, due precautions having
been taken, the two conspirators set off. Three, rather, for
Tucker, too, was now of the band of the black flag, having been
taken in with due formality a day or two before, and behaving
well and bravely during the rather trying rites of initiation.
Outside the thicket Bobby hesitated. "I ought to blindfold
you," he said. "But I guess you'll need your eyes. It's a
hard place to get to."
Perhaps, had he known the difficulties ahead, old Adelbert
would not have gone on. And; had he turned back then, the
history of a certain kingdom of Europe would have been changed.
Maps, too, and schoolbooks, and the life-story of a small
Prince. But he went on. Stronger than his young guide, he did
not crawl, but bent aside the stiff and ungainly branches of
the firs. He battled with the thicket, and came out
victorious.. He was not so old, then, or so feeble. His arm
would have been strong for the King, had not -
"There it is!" cried Bobby.
Not a cave, it appeared at first. A low doorway, barred with
an iron grating, and padlocked. A doorway in the base of a
side wall of the gate, and so heaped with leaves that its lower
half was covered.
Bobby produced a key. "I broke the padlock that was on it," he
explained. "I smashed it with a stone. But I got another. I
always lock it."
Prolonged search produced the key. Old Adelbert's face was set
hard. On what dungeon had this boy stumbled? He himself had
lived there many years, and of no such aperture had he heard
mention. It was strange.
Bobby was removing the leaf-mould with his hands. "It was
almost all covered when I found it," he said, industriously
scraping. "I generally close it up like this when I leave.
It's a good place for pirates, don't you think?"
"I've brought some things already. The lock's rusty. There it
goes. There are rats. I hope you don't mind rats."
The door swung in, silently, as though the hinges had been
recently oiled; as indeed they had, but not by the boy.
"It's rather dirty," he explained. "You go down steps first.
Be very careful."
He extended an earthy hand and led the old man down. "It's
dark here, but there's a room below; quite a good room. And I
Truly a room. Built of old brick, and damp, but with a free
circulation of air. Old Adelbert stared about him. It was not
entirely dark. A bit of light entered from the aperture at the
head of the steps. By it, even before Bobby had lighted his
candle, he saw the broken chair, the piece of old carpet, and
the odds and ends the child had brought.
"I cook down here sometimes," said Bobby, struggling with
matches that had felt the damp. "But it is very smoky. I
should like to have a stove. You don't know where I can get a
secondhand stove, do you? with a long pipe?"
Old Adelbert felt curiously shaken. "None have visited this
place since you have been here?" he asked.
"I don't suppose any one knows about it. Do you?"
"Those who built it, perhaps. But it is old, very old. It is
possible - "
He stopped, lost in speculation. There had been a story once
of a passageway under the wall, but he recollected nothing
clearly. A passageway leading out beyond the wall, through
which, in a great siege, a messenger had been sent for help.
But that was of a passage; while this was a dungeon.
The candle was at last lighted. It burned fitfully,
illuminating only a tiny zone in the darkness.
"I need a lantern," Bobby observed. "There's a draft here. It
comes from the other grating. Sometime, when you have time,
I'd like to see what's beyond it. I was kind of nervous about
It was the old passage, then, of course. Old Adelbert stared
as Bobby took the candle and held it toward a second grated
door, like the first, but taller.
"There are rats there," he said. "I can hear them; about a
million, I guess. They ate all the bread and bacon I left.
Tucker can get through. He must have killed a lot of them."
"Lend me your candle."
A close examination revealed to old Adelbert two things: First,
that a brick-lined passage, apparently in good repair, led
beyond the grating. Second, that it had been recently put in
order. A spade and wheelbarrow, both unmistakably of recent
make, stood just beyond, the barrow full of bricks, as though
fallen ones had been gathered up. Further, the padlock had
been freshly oiled, and the hinges of the grating. No unused
passage this, but one kept in order and repair. For what?
Bobby had adjusted the mask and thrust the knife through the
belt of his Norfolk jacket. Now, folding his arms, he recited
"'Fifteen men on a dead man's chest.
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!'"
"A spirited song," observed old Adelbert, as before. But his
eyes were on the grating.
That evening Adelbert called to see his friend, the locksmith
in the University Place. He possessed, he said, a padlock of
which he had lost the key, and which, being fastened to a
chest, he was unable to bring with him. A large and heavy
padlock, perhaps the size of his palm.
When he left, he carried with him a bundle of keys, tied in a
But he did not go back to his chest. He went instead to the
thicket around the old gate, which was still termed the "Gate
of the Moon," and there, armed with a lantern, pursued his
investigations during a portion of the night.
When he had finished, old Adelbert, veteran of many wars,
one-time patriot and newly turned traitor, held in his shaking
hands the fate of the kingdom.
AT THE INN
The Countess Loschek was on her way across the border. The
arrangements were not of her making. Her plan, which had been
to go afoot across the mountain to the town of Ar-on-ar, and
there to hire a motor, had been altered by the arrival at the
castle, shortly after the permission was given, of a machine.
So short an interval, indeed, had elapsed that she concluded,
with reason, that this car now placed at her disposal was the
one which had brought that permission.
"The matter of passports for the border is arranged, madame,"
Black Humbert told her.
"I have my own passports," she said proudly.
"They will not be necessary."
"I will have this interview at my destination alone; or not at
He drew himself to his great height and regarded her with cold
eyes. "As you wish," he said. "But it is probably not
necessary to remind madame that, whatever is discussed at this
meeting, no word must be mentioned of the Committee, or its
Although he made no threat, she had shivered. No, there must
be no word of the Committee, or of the terror that drove her to
Karl. For, if the worst happened, if he failed her, and she
must do the thing they had set her to do, Karl must never know.
That card she must play alone.
So she was not even to use her own passports! Making her hasty
preparations, again the Countess marveled. Was there no limit
to the powers of the Committee of Ten? Apparently the whole
machinery of the Government was theirs to command. Who were
they, these men who had sat there immobile behind their masks?
Did she meet any of them daily in the Palace? Were the eyes
that had regarded her with unfriendly steadiness that night in
the catacombs, eyes that smiled at her day by day, in the very
halls of the King? Had any of those shrouded and menacing
figures bent over her hand with mocking suavity? She wondered.
A hasty preparation at the last it was, indeed, but a careful
toilet had preceded it. Now that she was about to see Karl
again, after months of separation, he must find no flaw in her.
She searched her mirror for the ravages of the past few days,
and found them. Yet, appraising herself with cold eyes, she
felt she was still beautiful. The shadows about her eyes did
not dim them.
Everything hung on the result of her visit. If Karl
persisted, if he would marry Hedwig in spite of the trouble it
would precipitate, then indeed she was lost. If, on the other
hand, he was inclined to peace, if her story of a tottering
throne held his hand, she would defy the Committee of Ten.
Karl himself would help her to escape, might indeed hide her.
It would not be for long. Without Karl's support the King's
death would bring the Terrorists into control. They would have
other things to do than to hunt her out. Their end would be
gained without her. Let them steal the Crown Prince, then.
Let Hedwig fight for her throne and lose it. Let the streets
run, deep with blood and all the pandemonium of hell break
But if Karl failed her?
Even here was the possibility of further mischance. Suppose
the boy gone, and the people yet did not rise? Suppose then
that Hedwig, by her very agency, gained the throne and held it.
Hedwig, Queen of Livonia in her own right, and Karl's wife!
She clenched her teeth.
Over country roads the machine jolted and bumped. At daybreak
they had not yet reached the border. In a narrow lane they
encountered a pilgrimage of mountain folk, bent for the shrine
The peasants drew aside to let the Machine pass, and stared at
it. They had been traveling afoot all night, and yet another
day and a night would elapse before they could kneel in the
"A great lady," said one, a man who carried a sleeping child in
"Perhaps," said a young girl, "she too has made a pilgrimage.
All go to Etzel, the poor and the rich. And all receive
The Countess did not sleep. She was, with every fiber of her
keen brain, summoning her arguments. She would need them, for
she knew - none better - how great a handicap was hers. She
loved Karl, and he knew it. What had been her strength had
become her weakness.
Yet she was composed enough when, before the sun was well up,
the machine drew up in the village before the inn where
Mettlich had spent his uneasy hours.
Her heavy veils aroused the curiosity of the landlord. When,
shortly after, his daughter brought down a letter to be sent at
once to the royal hunting-lodge, he shrugged his shoulders. It
was not the first time a veiled woman had come to his inn under
similar circumstances. After all, great people are but human.
One cannot always be a king.
The Countess breakfasted in her room. The landlord served her
himself, and narrowly inspected her. She was not so young as
he had hoped, but she was beautiful. And haughty. A very
great person, he decided, incognito.
The King was hunting, he volunteered. There were great doings
at the lodge. Perhaps Her Excellency would be proceeding
She eyed him stonily, and then sent him off about his business.
So all the day she ate her heart out in her bare room. Now and
then the clear sound of bugles reached her, but she saw no
hunters. Karl followed the chase late that day. It was
evening before she saw the tired horses straggling through the
village streets. Her courage was oozing by that time. What
more could she say than what he already knew? Many agencies
other than hers kept him informed of the state of affairs in
Livonia. A bitter thought, this, for it showed Karl actuated
by love of Hedwig, and not by greed of power. She feared that
more than she feared death.
She had expected to go to the lodge, but at nine o'clock that
night Karl came to her, knocking at the door of her room and
entering without waiting for permission.
The room was small and cozy with firelight. Her scarlet cloak,
flung over a chair, made a dash of brilliant color. Two
lighted candles on a high carved chest, and between them a
plaster figure of the Mother and Child, a built-in bed with
white curtains - that was the room.
Before the open fire Olga Loschek sat in her low chair. She
wore still her dark traveling dress; and a veil, ready to be
donned at the summons of a message from Karl, trailed across
her knee. In the firelight she looked very young - young and
weary. Karl, who had come hardened to a scene, found her
appealing, almost pathetic.
She rose at his entrance and, after a moment of surprise,
smiled faintly. But she said nothing, nor did Karl, until he
had lifted one of her cold hands and brushed it with his lips.
"Well!" he said. "And again, Olga!"
"Once again." She looked up at him. Yes, he was changed. The
old Karl would have taken her in his arms. This new Karl was
urbane, smiling, uneasy.
He said nothing. He was apparently waiting for her to make the
first move. But she did not help him. She sat down and he
drew a small chair to the fire.
"There is nothing wrong, is there?" he said. "Your note
alarmed me. Not the note, but your coming here."
"Nothing - and everything." She felt suddenly very tired. Her
very voice was weary. "I sent you a letter asking you to come
to the castle. There were things to discuss, and I did not
care to take this risk of coming here."
"I received no letter."
"No!" She knew it, of course, but she pretended surprise, a
carefully suppressed alarm.
"I have what I am afraid is bad news, Olga. The letter was
taken. I received only a sheet of blank paper."
"Karl!" She leaped to her feet.
She was no mean actress. And behind it all was her real
terror, greater, much greater, than he could know. Whatever
design she had on Karl's pity, she was only acting at the
beginning. Deadly peril was clutching her, a double peril, of
the body and of the soul.
"Taken! By whom?"
"By some one you know - young Larisch."
"Larisch!" No acting there. In sheer amazement she dropped
back from him, staring with wide eyes. Nikky Larisch! Then
how had the Terrorists got it? Was all the world in their
"But - it is impossible!"
"I'm sorry, Olga. But even then there is something to be
explained. We imprisoned him - we got him in a trap, rather by
accident. He maintained that he had not made away with the
papers. A mystery, all of it. Only your man, Niburg, could
explain, and he - "
"I am afraid he will never explain, Olga."
Then indeed horror had its way with her. Niburg executed as a
spy, after making who knew what confession! What then awaited
her at the old castle above the church at Etzel? Karl, seeing
her whitening lips, felt a stirring of pity. His passion for
her was dead, but for a long time he had loved her, and now, in
sheer regret, he drew her to him.
"Poor girl," he said softly. "Poor girl!" And drew his hand
gently over her hair.
She shivered at his touch. "I can never go back," she said
But at that he freed her. "That would be to confess before you
are accused," he reminded her. "We do not know that Niburg
told. He was doomed anyhow. To tell would help nothing. The
letter, of course, was in code?"
She sat down again, fighting for composure.
"I am not very brave," she said. "It was unexpected. In a
moment I shall be calmer. You must not think that I regret the
risk. I have always been proud to do my best for you."
That touched him. In the firelight, smiling wanly at him, she
was very like the girl who had attracted him years before. Her
usual smiling assurance was gone. She looked sad, appealing.
And she was right. She had always done her best for him. But
he was cautious, too.
"I owe you more than I can tell you," he said. "It is the sort
of debt that can never be paid. Your coming here was a
terrible risk. Something urgent must have brought you."
She pushed back her heavy hair restlessly.
"I was anxious. And there were things I felt you should know."
"The truth about the King's condition, for one. He is dying.
The bulletins lie. He is no better."
"Why should the bulletins lie?"
"Because there is a crisis. You know it. But you cannot know
what we know - the living in fear, the precautions,
"So!" said Karl uneasily. "But the Chancellor assured me - "
He stopped. It was not yet time to speak of the Chancellor's
"The Chancellor! He lies, of course. How bad things are you
may judge when I tell you that a hidden passage from the Palace
has been opened and cleared, ready for instant flight."
It was Karl's turn to be startled. He rose, and stood staring
down at her. "Are you certain of that?"
"Certain!" She laughed bitterly. "The Terrorists
Revolutionists, they call themselves - are everywhere. They
know everything, see everything. Mettlich's agents are
disappearing one by one. No one knows where, but all suspect.
Student meetings are prohibited. The yearly procession of
veterans is forbidden, for they trust none, even their old
soldiers. The Council meets day after day in secret session."
"But the army - "
"They do not trust the army."
Karl's face was grave. Something of the trouble in Livonia he
had known. But this argued an immediate crisis.
"On the King's death," the Countess said, "a republic will be
declared. The Republic of Livonia! The Crown Prince will
She shivered, but Karl was absorbed in the situation.
"Incredible!" he commented. "These fears are sometimes
hysterias, but what you say of the preparations for flight - I
thought the boy was very popular."
"With some. But when has a child stood between the mob and the
thing it wants? And the thing they cry for is liberty. Down
with the royal house! Down with the aristocracy!"
She was calm enough now. Karl was listening, was considering,
looked uneasy. She had been right. He was not for acquiring
trouble, even by marriage.
But, if she had read Karl, he also knew her. In all the years
he had known her she had never been reckless. Daring enough,
but with a calculating daring that took no chances. And yet
she had done a reckless thing by coming to him. From under
lowered eyelids he considered her. Why had she done it? The
situation was serious enough, but even then -
"So you came to-day to tell me this?"
She glanced up, and catching his eyes, colored faintly. "These
are things you should know."
He knew her very well. A jealous woman would go far. He knew
now that she was jealous. When he spoke it was with
calculating brutality. "You mean, in view of my impending
So it was arranged! Finally arranged. Well, she had done her
best. He knew the truth. She had told it fairly. If, knowing
it, he persisted, it would be because her power over him was
dead at last.
"Yes. I do not know how far your arrangements have gone. You
have at least been warned."
But she saw, by the very way he drew himself up and smiled,
that he understood. More than that, he doubted her. He
questioned what she had said.
The very fact that she had told him only the truth added to her
"You will see," she said sullenly.
Because he thought he already saw, and because she had given
him a bad moment, Karl chose to be deliberately cruel.
"Perhaps!" he said. "But even then if this marriage were
purely one of expediency, Olga, I might hesitate. Frankly, I
want peace. I am tired of war, tired of bickering, tired of
watching and being watched. But it is not one of expediency.
Not, at least, only that. You leave out of this discussion the
one element that I consider important, Hedwig herself. If the
Princess Hedwig were to-morrow to be without a country, I
should still hope to marry her."
She had done well up to now, had kept her courage and her
temper, had taken her cue from him and been quiet and poised.
But more than his words, his cruel voice, silky with
friendship, drove her to the breaking point. Karl, who hated a
scene, found himself the victim of one, and was none the
happier that she who had so long held him off was now herself
at arm's length, and struggling.
Bitterly, and with reckless passion, she flung at him Hedwig's
infatuation for young Larisch, and prophesied his dishonor as a
result of it. That leaving him cold and rather sneering, she
reviewed their old intimacy, to be reminded that in that there
had been no question of marriage, or hope of it.
"I am only human, Olga," he said, in an interval when she had
fallen to quiet weeping. "I loved you very sincerely, and for
a long time. Marriage between us was impossible. You always
In the end she grew quiet and sat looking into the fire with
eyes full of stony despair. She had tried and failed. There
was one way left, only one, and even that would not bring him
back to her. Let Hedwig escape and marry Nikky Larisch - still
where was she? Let the Terrorists strike their blow and steal
the Crown Prince. Again - where was she?
Her emotions were deadened, all save one, and that was her
hatred of Hedwig. The humiliation of that moment was due to
her. Somehow, some day, she would be even with Hedwig. Karl
left her there at last, huddled in her chair, left full of
resentment, the ashes of his old love cold and gray. There was
little reminder of the girl of the mountains in the stony-eyed
woman he had left sagged low by the fire.
Once out in the open air, the King of Karnia drew a long
breath. The affair was over. It had been unpleasant. It was
always unpleasant to break with a woman. But it was time. He
neither loved her nor needed her. Friendly relations between
the two countries were established; and soon, very soon, would
be ratified by his marriage.
It was not of Olga Loschek, but of Hedwig that he thought, as
his car climbed swiftly to the lodge.
THE LITTLE DOOR
Hedwig had given up. She went through her days with a set
face, white and drawn, but she knew now that the thing she was
to do must be done. The King, in that stormy scene when the
Sister prayed in the next room, had been sufficiently explicit.
They had come on bad times, and could no longer trust to their
own strength. Proud Livonia must ask for help, and that from
beyond her border.
"We are rotten at the core," he said bitterly. "An old rot
that has eaten deep. God knows, we have tried to cut it away,
but it has gone too far. Times are, indeed, changed when we
must ask a woman to save us!"
She had thrown her arms over the bed and buried her face in
them. "And I am to be sacrificed," she had said, in a flat
voice. "I am to go through my life like mother, soured and
unhappy. Without any love at all."
The King was stirred. His thin, old body had sunk in the bed
until it seemed no body at all. "Why without love?" he asked,
almost gently. "Karl knows our condition - not all of it, but
he is well aware that things are unstable here. Yet he is
eager for the marriage. I am inclined to believe that he
follows his inclinations, rather than a political policy."
The thought that Karl might love her had not entered her mind.
That made things worse, if anything - a situation unfair to him
and horrible to herself. In the silence of her own room,
afterward, she pondered over that. If it were true, then a
certain hope she had must be relinquished - none other than to
throw herself on his mercy, and beg for a nominal marriage, one
that would satisfy the political alliance, but leave both of
them free. Horror filled her. She sat for long periods,
dry-eyed and rigid.
The bronze statue of the late Queen, in the Place, fascinated
her in those days. She, too, had been only a pawn in the game
of empires; but her face, as Hedwig remembered it, had been
calm and without bitterness. The King had mourned her
sincerely. What lay behind that placid, rather austere old
face? Dead dreams? Or were the others right, that after a
time it made no difference, that one marriage was the same as
She had not seen Nikky save once or twice, and that in the
presence of others. On these occasions he had bowed low, and
passed on. But once she had caught his eyes on her, and had
glowed for hours at what she saw in them. It braced her
somewhat for the impending ordeal of a visit from Karl.
The days went on. Dressmakers came and went. In the mountains
lace-makers were already working on the veil, and the brocade
of white and gold for her wedding-gown was on the loom. She
was the pale center of a riot of finery. Dressmakers stood
back and raised delighted hands as, one by one; their models
were adjusted to her listless figure.
In the general excitement the Crown Prince was almost
forgotten. Only Nikky remained faithful; but his playing those
days was mechanical, and one day he was even severe. This was
when he found Prince Ferdinand William Otto hanging a cigarette
out of a window overlooking the courtyard, and the line of
soldiers underneath in most surprising confusion. The officer
of the day was not in sight.
Nikky, entering the stone-paved court, and feeling extremely
glum, had been amazed to see the line of guards, who usually
sat on a bench, with a sentry or picket, or whatever they
called him, parading up and down before them - Nikky was amazed
to see them one by one leaping into the air, in the most
undignified manner. Nikky watched the performance. Then he
stalked over. They subsided sheepishly. In the air was the
cause of the excitement, a cigarette dangling at the end of a
silk thread, and bobbing up and down. No one was to be seen at
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