Long Live the King
Mary Roberts Rinehart
Part 6 out of 8
the window above.
Nikky was very tall. He caught the offending atom on its next
leap, and jerked it off. As he had suspected, it was one of
his own, bearing an "N" and his coat of arms.
The Crown Prince received that day, with the cigarette as an
excuse, a considerable amount of Nikky's general unhappiness
and rage at the world.
"Well," said Prince Ferdinand William Otto, when it was over,
"I have to do something, don't I?"
It was Miss Braithwaite's conviction that this prank, and
several other things, such as sauntering about with his hands
in his pockets, and referring to his hat as a "lid," were all
the result of his meeting that American boy.
"He is really not the same child," she finished. "Oskar found
him the other day with a rolled-up piece of paper lighted at
the end, pretending he was smoking."
The Chancellor came now and then, but not often. And his
visits were not cheering. The Niburg affair had left its mark
on him. The incident of the beggar on the quay was another
scar. The most extreme precautions were being taken, but a bad
time was coming, and must be got over somehow.
That bad time was Karl's visit.
No public announcement of the marriage had yet been made. It
was bound to be unpopular. Certainly the revolutionary party
would make capital of it. To put it through by force, if
necessary, and, that accomplished, to hold the scourge of
Karnia's anger over a refractory people, was his plan. To
soothe them with the news of the cession of the seaport strip
was his hope.
Sometimes, in the early morning, when the King lay awake, and
was clearer mentally than later in the day, he wondered. He
would not live to see the result of all this planning. But one
contingency presented itself constantly. Suppose the Crown
Prince did not live? He was sturdy enough, but it was
possible. Then Hedwig, Queen of Karnia, would be Queen of
Livonia. A dual kingdom then, with Karl as Hedwig's consort,
in control, undoubtedly. It would be the end of many dreams.
It seemed to him in those early hours, that they were, indeed,
paying a price. Preparations were making for Karl's visit.
Prince Hubert's rooms were opened at last, and redecorated as
well as possible in the short time at command, under the
supervision of the Archduchess. The result was a crowding that
was neither dignified nor cheerful. Much as she trimmed her
own lean body, she decorated. But she was busy, at least, and
she let Hedwig alone.
It was not unusual, those days, to find Annunciata, flushed
with exertion, in the great suite on an upper floor, in the
center of a chaos of furniture, shoving chairs about with her
own royal arms, or standing, head on one side, to judge what
she termed the composition of a corner. Indignant footmen
pushed and carried, and got their wigs crooked and their
dignified noses dirty, and held rancorous meetings in secluded
But Annunciata kept on. It gave her something to think of in
place of the fear, that filled her, made her weary enough to
sleep at night.
And there was something else that comforted her.
Beyond the windows of the suite was a flat roof, beneath which
was the ballroom of the Palace. When the apartment was in use,
the roof was made into a garden, the ugly old walls hidden with
plants in tubs and boxes, the parapet edged with flowers. It
was still early, so spring tulips were planted now on the
parapet, early primroses and hyacinths. In the center an empty
fountain was cleared, its upper basins filled with water vines,
its borders a riot of color. When the water was turned on, it
would be quite lovely.
But it was not the garden on the roof which cheered Annunciata.
It had, indeed, rather sad memories. Here had Hubert's young
wife kept her cages of birds, fed with her own hands, and here,
before Otto was born, she had taken the air in a long
Annunciata, overseeing the roof as she had overseen the
apartment, watched the gardeners bringing in their great loads
of plants from the summer palace, and saw that a small door, in
a turret, was kept free of access. To that door, everything
else failing, the Archduchess pinned her faith. She carried
everywhere with her a key that would open it.
Long ago had the door been built, long ago, when attacking
forces, battering in the doors below, might swarm through the
lower floors, held back on staircases by fighting men who
retreated, step by step, until, driven at last to the very top,
they were apparently lost. More than once; in bygone times the
royal family had escaped by that upper door, and the guard
after them. It was known to few.
The staircase in the wall had passed into legend, and the
underground passage with it. But they still existed, and had
recently been put in order. The Chancellor had given the
command; and because there were few to be trusted, two monks
from the monastery attached to the cathedral had done the work.
So the gardeners set out their potted evergreens, and covered
the primroses on the balustrade against frost, and went away.
And the roof had become by magic a garden, the walls were
miniature forests, but the door remained - a door.
On a desperate morning Hedwig threw caution to the winds and
went to the riding-school. She wore her old habit, and was in
the ring, but riding listlessly, when Nikky and Otto appeared.
"And eat." Nikky was saying. "He always eats. And when I take
him for a walk in the park, he digs up bones that other dogs
have buried, and carries them home with him. We look very
disreputable." The Crown Prince laughed with delight, but just
then Nikky saw Hedwig, and his own smile died.
"There's Hedwig!" said Prince Ferdinand William Otto. "I'm
rather glad to see her. Aren't you?"
"Very glad, indeed."
"You don't look glad."
"I'm feeling very glad inside."
They rode together, around and around the long oval, with its
whitewashed railing, its attendant grooms, its watchful eyes
overhead. Between Nikky and Hedwig Prince Ferdinand William
Otto laughed and chattered, and Hedwig talked a great deal
about nothing, with bright spots of red burning in her face.
Nikky was very silent. He rode with his eyes set ahead; and
had to be spoken to twice before he heard.
"You are not having a very good time, are you?" Prince
Ferdinand William Otto inquired anxiously. To tell the truth,
he had been worried about Nikky for some days. Nikky had been
his one gleam of cheerfulness in a Palace where all was bustle
and excitement and every one seemed uneasy. But Nikky's
cheerfulness had been forced lately. His smile never reached
his eyes. "I haven't done anything, have I?" he persisted.
"Bless you, no!" said Nikky heartily. "I - well, I didn't
sleep well last night. That's all."
He met Hedwig's glance squarely over the head of the Crown
"Nor did I," Hedwig said.
Later, when the boy was jumping, they had a moment together.
The Crown Prince was very absorbed. He was just a little
nervous about jumping. First he examined his stirrups and
thrust his feet well into them. Then he jammed his cap down on
his head and settled himself, in the saddle, his small knees
"It's higher than usual, isn't it?" he inquired, squinting at
The riding-master examined it. "It is an inch lower than
yesterday, Your Royal Highness."
"Perhaps we'd better have it the same as yesterday," said the
boy, who was terribly afraid of being afraid.
Then, all being adjusted, and his mouth set very tight, indeed,
Prince Ferdinand William Otto took the first jump, and sailed
over it comfortably.
"I don't mind at all, after the first," he confided to the
"Are you angry that I came?" asked Hedwig.
"Angry? You know better."
"You don't say anything."
"Hedwig," said Nikky desperately, "do you remember what I said
to you the other day? That is in my heart now. I shall never
change. That, and much more. But I cannot say it to you. I
have given my word."
"Of course they would make you promise. They tried with me,
but I refused." She held her chin very high. "Why did you
promise? They could not have forced you. They can do many
things, but they cannot control what you may say."
"There are reasons. Even those I cannot tell you. It would be
easier, Hedwig, for me to die than to live on and see what I
must see. But I cannot even die." He smiled faintly. "You
see, I am not keeping my promise."
"I think you will not die," said Hedwig cruelly. "You are too
"Yes, I am too cautious," he agreed heavily.
"You do not know the meaning of love."
"Then God grant I may never know, if it is worse than this:"
"If I were a man, and loved a woman, I would think less of
myself and more of her. When I saw her unhappy and being
forced to a terrible thing, I would move heaven and earth to
"How would you do it?" said Nikky in a low tone.
Hedwig shrugged her shoulders. "I would find a way. The world
is large. Surely, if one really cared, it could be managed. I
should consider my first duty to her."
"I am a soldier, Highness. My first duty is to my country."
"You?" said Hedwig, now very white. "I was not speaking of
you. I was speaking of a man who truly loved a woman."
She rode away, and left him there. And because she was hurt
and reckless, and not quite sane, she gave him a very bad
half-hour. She jumped again, higher each time, silencing the
protests of the riding-master with an imperious gesture. Her
horse tired. His sides heaved, his delicate nostrils dilated.
She beat him with her crop, and flung him again at the hurdle.
Prince Ferdinand William Otto was delighted, a trifle envious.
"She jumps better than I do," he observed to Nikky, ?but she is
in a very bad humor."
At last, his patience exhausted and fear in his heart, Nikky
went to her. "Hedwig," he said sternly. "I want you to stop
this childishness. You will kill yourself."
"I am trying very hard to."
"You will kill your horse. Look at him."
For answer she raised her crop, but Nikky bent forward and
caught the reins.
"How dare you!" she said furiously.
For answer Nikky turned and, riding beside her, led her weary
horse out of the ring. And long training asserted itself.
Hedwig dared not make a scene before the waiting grooms. She
rode in speechless rage, as white as Nikky, and trembling with
fury. She gave him no time to assist her to dismount, but
slipped off herself and left him, her slim, black-habited
figure held very straight.
"I'm afraid she's very angry with you," said the Crown Prince,
as they walked back to the Palace. "She looked more furious
than she did about the fruitcake."
That afternoon Nikky went for a walk. He took Toto with him,
and they made the circuit of the Park, which formed an
irregular circle about the narrow streets of the old citadel
where the wall had once stood. He walked, as he had done
before, because he was in trouble, but with this difference,
that then, he had walked in order to think, and now he walked
In that remote part where the Gate of the Moon stood, and
where, outside, in mediaeval times had been the
jousting-ground, the Park widened. Here was now the city
playground, the lake where in winter the people held ice
carnivals, and where, now that spring was on the way, they rode
in the little cars of the Scenic Railway.
An old soldier with a wooden leg, and a child, were walking
together by the lake, and conversing seriously. A dog was
burying a bone under a near-by tree. Toto, true to his
instincts, waited until the bone was covered, and then, with
calm proprietorship, dug it up and carried it off. Having
learned that Nikky now and then carried bones in his pockets,
he sat up and presented it to him. Nikky paying no attention
at first, Toto flung it up in the air, caught it on his nose,
balanced it a second, and dropped it. Then followed a sudden
explosion of dog-rage and a mix-up of two dogs, an old soldier,
a young one, a boy, and a wooden leg. In the end the wooden
leg emerged triumphant, Toto clinging to it under the
impression that he had something quite different. The bone was
flung into the lake, and a snarling truce established.
But there had been a casualty. Bobby had suffered a severe nip
on the forearm, and was surveying it with rather dazed eyes.
"Gee, it's bleeding!" he said.
Nikky looked worried, but old Adelbert, who had seen many
wounds, recommended tying it up with garlic, and then
forgetting it. "It is the first quarter of the moon," he said.
"No dog's bite is injurious at that time."
Nikky, who had had a sniff of the bone of contention, was not
so easy in his mind. First quarter of the moon it might be,
but the bone was not in its first quarter. "I could walk home
with the boy," he suggested, "and get something at a chemist's
on the way."
"Will it hurt?" demanded Bobby.
"We will ask for something that will not hurt."
So it happened that Bobby and Tucker, the two pirates, returned
that day to their home under the escort of a tall young man who
carried a bottle wrapped in pink paper in his hand, and looked
serious. Old Pepy was at home. She ran about getting basins,
and because Nikky had had his first-aid training, in a very
short time everything was shipshape, and no one the worse.
"Do you suppose it will leave a scar?" Bobby demanded.
"Well, a little one, probably."
"I've got two pretty good ones already," Bobby boasted, "not
counting my vaccination. Gee! I bet mother'll be surprised."
"The Americans," said Pepy, with admiring eyes fixed on their
visitor, "are very peculiar about injuries. They speak always
of small animals that crawl about in wounds and bring poison."
"Germs!" Bobby explained. "But they know about germs here,
too. I , played with a boy one, afternoon at the Scenic
Railway - my father is the manager, you know. If you like, I
can give you some tickets. And the boy said a fig lady he had
was covered with germs. We ate it anyhow."
Nikky looked down smilingly. So this was the American lad! Of
course. He could understand Otto's warm feeling now. They
were not unlike, the two children. This boy was more sturdy,
not so fine, perhaps, but eminently likable. He was
courageous, too. The iodine had not been pleasant, but he had
"And nothing happened to the other boy, because of the germs?"
"I don't know. He never came back. He was a funny boy. He
had a hat like father's. Gee!"
Nikky took his departure, followed by Pepy's eyes. As long as
he was in sight she watched him from the window. "He is some
great person," she said to Bobby. "Of the aristocracy. I know
"A prince, maybe?"
"Perhaps. You in America, you have no such men, I think, such
fine soldiers, aristocrats, and yet gentle. The uniform is
considered the handsomest in Europe."
"Humph!" said Bobby aggressively. "You ought to see my uncle
dressed for a Knight Templar parade. You'd see something."
Nikky went down the stairs, with Toto at his heels, a valiant
and triumphant Toto, as becomes a dog who has recently
vanquished a wooden leg.
At the foot of the staircase a man was working replacing a
loosened tile in the passage; a huge man, clad in a smock and
with a bushy black beard tucked in his neck out of the way.
Nikky nodded to him, and went out. Like a cat Black Humbert
was on his feet, and peering after him from the street door.
It was he, then, the blond devil who, had fallen on them that
night, and had fought as one who fights for the love of it!
The concierge went back to the door of his room.
Herman Spier sat inside. He had fortified his position by that
trip to the mountains, and now spent his days in Black
Humbert's dirty kitchen, or in errand-running. He was broiling
a sausage on the end of a fork.
"Quick!" cried Black Humbert. "Along the street, with a black
dog at his heels, goes one you will recognize. Follow him, and
find out what you can."
Herman Spier put the sausage in his pocket - he had paid for it
himself, and meant to have it - and started out. It was late
when he returned.
He gave Nikky's name and position, where his lodgings were, or
had been until now. He was about to remove to the Palace,
having been made aide-de-camp to the Crown Prince.
"So!" said Black Humbert.
"It is also," observed Herman Spier, eating his sausage, "this
same one who led the police to Niburg's room. I have the word
of the woman who keeps the house."
The concierge rose, and struck the table with his fist. "And
now he comes here!" he said. "The boy upstairs was a blind.
He has followed us." He struck the sausage furiously out of
Herman's hand. "Tonight the police will come. And what then?"
"If you had taken my advice," said the clerk, "you would have
got rid of that fellow upstairs long ago." He picked up the
sausage and dusted it with his hand. "But I do not believe the
police will come. The child was bitten. I saw them enter."
Nevertheless, that night, while Herman Spier kept watch at the
street door, the concierge labored in the little yard behind
the house. He moved a rabbit hutch and, wedging his huge body
behind it, loosened a board or two in the high wooden fence.
More than the Palace prepared for flight.
Still later, old Adelbert roused from sleep. There were
footsteps in the passage outside, the opening of a door. He
reflected that the concierge was an owl and, the sounds
persisting, called out an irritable order for quiet.
Then he slept again, and while he slept the sounds recommenced.
Had he glanced out into the passage, then, he would have seen
two men, half supporting a third, who tottered between them.
Thus was the student Haeckel, patriot and Royalist, led forth
And he did not die.
TEE CROWN PRINCE'S PILGRIMAGE
The day when Olga Loschek should have returned to the city
found her too ill to travel. No feigned sickness this, but
real enough, a matter of fever and burning eyes, and of
mutterings in troubled sleep.
Minna was alarmed. She was fond of her mistress, in spite of
her occasional cruelties, and lately the Countess had been
strangely gentle. She required little attention, wished to be
alone, and lay in her great bed, looking out steadily at the
bleak mountain-tops, to which spring never climbed.
"She eats nothing," Minna said despairingly to the caretaker.
"And her eyes frighten me. They are always open, even in the
night, but they seem to see nothing."
On the day when she should have returned, the Countess roused
herself enough to send for Black Humbert, fretting in the
kitchen below. He had believed that she was malingering until
he saw her, but her flushed and hollow cheeks showed her
"You must return and explain," she said. "I shall need more
time, after all." When he hesitated, she added: "There are
plenty to watch that I do not escape. I could not, if I would.
I have not the strength."
"Time is passing," he said gruffly, "and we get nowhere."
"As soon as I can travel, I will come."
"If madame wishes, I can take a letter."
She pondered over that, interlacing her fingers nervously as
"I will send no letter," she decided, "but I will give you a
message, which you can deliver."
"Say to the Committee," she began, and paused. She had thought
and thought until her brain burned with thinking, but she had
found no way out. And yet she could not at once bring herself
to speech. But at last she said it: "Say to the Committee that
I have reflected and that I will do what they ask. As far,"
she added, "as lies in my power. I can only - "
"That is all the Committee expects," he said civilly, and with
a relief that was not lost on her. "With madame's
intelligence, to try is to succeed."
Nevertheless, he left her well guarded. Even Minna, slipping
off for an evening hour with a village sweetheart, was
stealthily shadowed. Before this, fine ladies had changed
garments with their maids and escaped from divers
Olga Loschek lay in her bed, and always there were bells. The
cattle were being driven up into the mountains for the summer
grazing, great, soft-eyed herds, their bells tinkling slowly as
they made their deliberate, soft-footed progress along the
valley; the silvery bells for mass; the clock striking the hour
with its heavy, vibrating clamor of bronze.
When she sank into the light sleep of fever, they roused her,
or she slept on; hearing in their tones the great bell of St.
Stefan's announcing the King's death. Bells, always bells.
At the end of two days she was able to be up again. She moved
languidly about her room, still too weak to plan. There were
times when she contemplated suicide, but she knew herself to be
too cowardly to do more than dream of it.
And on the fourth day came the Crown Prince of Livonia on a
The manner of his coming was this:
There are more ways than one of reaching the hearts of an
uneasy people. Remission of taxes is a bad one. It argues a
mistake in the past, in exacting such tithes. Governments may
make errors, but must not acknowledge them. There is the
freeing of political prisoners, but that, too, is dangerous,
when such prisoners breathe sedition to the very prison walls.
And there is the appeal to sentiment. The Government, pinning
all its hopes to one small boy, would further endear him to the
people. Wily statesman that he was, the Chancellor had hit on
this to offset the rumors of Hedwig's marriage.
But the idea was not his, although he adopted it. It had had
its birth in the little room with the Prie-dieu and the stand
covered with bottles, had been born of the Sister's belief in
the miracles of Etzel.
However, he appropriated it, and took it to the King.
"A pilgrimage!" said the King, when the mater was broached to
him. "For what? My recovery? Cannot you let your servant
depart in peace?"
"Pilgrimages," observed the Chancellor, "have had marvelous
results, sire. I do not insist that they perform miracles, as
some believe," - he smiled faintly, - "but as a matter of
public feeling and a remedy for discord, they are sometimes
"I see," said the King. And lay still, looking at the ceiling.
"Can it be done safely?" he asked at last.
"The maddest traitor would not threaten the Crown Prince on a
pilgrimage. The people would tear him limb from limb."
"Nevertheless, I should take all precautions," he said dryly.
"A madman might not recognize the - er - religious nature of
The same day the Chancellor visited Prince Ferdinand William
Otto, and found him returned from his drive and busy over
Hedwig's photograph frame.
"It is almost done," he said. "I slipped over in one or two
places, but it is not very noticeable, is it?"
The Chancellor observed it judicially, and decided that the
slipping over was not noticeable at all. Except during school
hours Miss Braithwaite always retired during the Chancellor's
visits, and so now the two were alone.
"Otto," said the Chancellor gravely, "I want to talk to you
"Have I done anything?"
"No." He smiled. "It is about something I would like you to
do. For your grandfather."
"I'll do anything for him, sir."
"We know that. This is the point. He has been ill for along
time. Very ill."
The boy watched him with a troubled face. "He looks very
thin," he said. "I get quite worried when I see him."
"Exactly. You have heard of Etzel?"
Prince Ferdinand William Otto's religious instruction was of
the best. He had, indeed, heard of Etzel. He knew the famous
pilgrimages in order, and could say them rapidly, beginning,
the year of Our Lord 915 - the Emperor Otto and Adelheid, his
spouse; the year of Our Lord 1100, Ulrich, Count of Ruburg; and
"When people are ill," he said sagely, "they go to Etzel to be
"Precisely. But when they cannot go, they send some one else,
to pray for them. And sometimes, if they have faith enough,
the holy miracle happens, and they are cured."
The Chancellor was deeply religious, and although he had
planned the pilgrimage for political reasons, for the moment he
lost sight of them. What if, after all, this clear-eyed,
clean-hearted child could bring this miracle of the King's
recovery? It was a famous shrine, and stranger things had been
brought about by less worthy agencies.
"I thought," he said, "that if you would go to Etzel, Otto, and
there pray for your grandfather's recovery, it - it would be a
The meaning of such a pilgrimage dawned suddenly on the boy.
His eyes filled, and because he considered it unmanly to weep,
he slid from his chair and went to the window. There he got
out his pocket-handkerchief and blew his nose.
"I'm afraid he's going to die," he said, in a smothered voice.
The Chancellor followed him to the window, and put an arm
around his shoulders. "Even that would not be so terrible,
Otto," he said. "Death, to the old, is not terrible. It is an
open door, through which they go gladly, because - because
those who have gone ahead are waiting just beyond it."
"Are my mother and father waiting?"
He considered. "And my grandmother?"
"He'll be very glad to see them all again."
"Very happy, indeed. But we need him here, too, for a while.
You need him and - I. So we will go and pray to have him wait
a little longer before he goes away. Hour about it?"
"I'll try. I'm not very good. I do a good many things, you
Here, strangely enough, it was the Chancellor who fumbled for
his handkerchief. A vision had come to him of the two of them
kneeling side by side at Etzel, the little lad who was "not
very good," and he himself with his long years behind him of
such things as fill a man's life. And because the open door
was not so far ahead for him either, and because he believed
implicitly in the great Record within the Gate, he shook his
So the pilgrimage was arranged. With due publicity, of course,
and due precaution for safety. By train to the foot of the
mountains, and then on foot for the ten miles to Etzel.
On the next day the Crown Prince fasted, taking nothing but
bread and a cup of milk. On the day of the pilgrimage,
however, having been duly prepared, and mass having been said
at daybreak in the chapel, with all the Court present, he was
given a substantial breakfast. His small legs had a toilsome
journey before them.
He went through his preparation in a sort of rapt solemnity.
So must the boy crusaders have looked as, starting on their
long journey, they faced south and east, toward the far-distant
Sepulcher of Our Lord.
The King's Council went, the Chancellor, the Mayor of the city,
wearing the great gold chain of his office around his neck, and
a handful of soldiers, - a simple pilgrimage and the more
affecting. There were no streaming banners, no magnificent
vestments. The Archbishop accompanied them; and a flag-bearer.
They went on foot to the railway station through lines of
kneeling people, the boy still rapt; and looking straight
ahead, the Chancellor seemingly also absorbed, but keenly alive
to the crowds. As he went on, his face relaxed. It was as if
the miracle had already happened. Not the miracle for which
the boy would pray, but a greater one. Surely these kneeling
people, gazing with moist and kindly eyes at the Crown Prince,
could not, at the hot words of demagogues, turn into the mob he
feared. But it had happened before. The people who had, one
moment, adored the Dauphin of France on his balcony at
Versailles, had lived to scream for his life.
On and on, through the silent, crowded streets. No drums; no
heralds, no bugles. First the standard-bearer; then the
Archbishop, walking with his head bent; then the boy, alone and
bareheaded, holding his small hat in moist; excited fingers;
then the others, the Chancellor and the Mayor together, the
Council, the guard. So they moved along, without speech,
grave, reverent, earnest.
At the railway station a man stepped out of the crowd and
proffered a paper to the Crown Prince. But he was too absorbed
to see it, and a moment later the Chancellor had it, and was
staring with hard eyes at the individual who had presented it.
A moment later, without sound, or breach of decorum, the man
was between two agents, a prisoner. The paper, which the
Chancellor read on the train and carefully preserved, was a
highly seditious document attacking the Government and ending
The Chancellor, who had started in an exalted frame of mind,
sat scowling and thoughtful during the journey. How many of
those who had knelt on the street had had similar seditious
papers in their pockets? A people who could kneel, and,
The Countess, standing on her balcony and staring down into the
valley, beheld the pilgrimage and had thus her first knowledge
of it. She was incredulous at first, and stood gazing,
gripping the stone railing with tense hands. She watched,
horror-stricken. The Crown Prince, himself, come to Etzel to
pray! For his grandfather, of course. Then, indeed, must
things be bad with the King, as bad as they could be.
The Crown Prince was very warm. She could see the gleam of his
handkerchief as he wiped his damp face. She could see the
effort of his tired legs to keep step with the standard-bearer.
The bells again. How she hated them! They rang out now to
welcome the pilgrims, and a procession issued from the church
door, a lay brother first, carrying a banner, then the fathers,
two by two; the boys from the church school in long procession.
The royal party halted at the foot of the street. The fathers
advanced. She could make out Father Gregory's portly figure
among them. The bell tolled. The villagers stood in excited
but quiet groups, and watched.
Then the two banners touched, the schoolboys turned, followed
by the priests. Thus led, went the Crown Prince of Livonia to
pray for his grandfather's life.
The church doors closed behind them.
Olga Loschek fell on her knees. She was shaking from head to
foot. And because the religious training of her early life
near the shrine had given her faith in miracles, she prayed for
one. Rather, she made a bargain with God: -
If any word came to her from Karl, any, no matter, to what it
pertained, she would take it for a sign, and attempt flight.
If she was captured, she would kill herself.
But, if no word came from Karl by the hour of her departure the
next morning, then she would do the thing she had set out to
do, and let him beware! The King dead, there would be no King.
Only over the dead bodies of the Livonians would they let him
marry Hedwig and the throne. It would be war.
Curiously, while she was still on her knees, her bargain made,
the plan came to her by which, when the time came, the
Terrorists were to rouse the people to even greater fury.
Still kneeling, she turned it over in her mind. It was
possible. More, it could be made plausible, with her
assistance. And at the vision it evoked, - Mettlich's horror
and rage, Hedwig's puling tears, her own triumph, - she took a
deep breath. Revenge with a vengeance, retaliation for old
hurts and fresh injuries, these were what she found on her
knees, while the bell in the valley commenced the mass, and a
small boy; very rapt and very earnest, prayed for his
Yet the bargain came very close to being made the other way
that day, and by Karl himself.
Preparations were being made for his visit to Livonia.
Ostensibly this visit was made because of the King's illness.
Much political capital was being made of Karl's going to see,
for the last time, the long-time enemy of his house. While
rumor was busy, Karnia was more than satisfied. Even the
Socialist Party approved, and their papers, being more frank
than the others, spoke openly of the chances of a dual kingdom,
the only bar being a small boy.
On the day of the pilgrimage Karl found himself strangely
restless and uneasy. He had returned to his capital the day
before, and had busied himself until late that night with
matters of state. He had slept well, and wakened to a sense of
well-being. But, during the afternoon, he became uneasy. Olga
Loschek haunted him, her face when he had told her about the
letter, her sagging figure when he had left her.
Something like remorse stirred in him. She had taken great
risks for him. Of all the women he had known, she had most
truly and unselfishly loved him. And for her years of service
he had given her contempt. He reflected, too, that he had,
perhaps, made an enemy where he needed a friend. How easy, by
innuendo and suggestion, to turn Hedwig against him, Hedwig who
already fancied herself interested elsewhere.
Very nearly did he swing the scale in which Olga Loschek had
hung her bargain with God - so nearly that in the intervals of
affixing his sprawling signature to various documents, he drew
a sheet of note-paper toward him. Then, with a shrug, he
pushed it away. So Olga Loschek lost her bargain.
At dawn the next morning the Countess, still pale with illness
and burning with fever, went back to the city.
OLD ADELBERT THE TRAITOR
"Thus," said the concierge, frying onions over his stove; "thus
have they always done. But you have been blind. Rather, you
would not see."
Old Adelbert stirred uneasily. "So long as I accept my pension
"Why should you not accept your pension. A trifle in exchange
for what you gave. For them, who now ill-use you, you have
gone through life but half a man. Women smile behind their
hands when you hobble by."
"I do not hold with women," said old Adelbert, flushing. "They
take all and give nothing." The onions were done, and the
concierge put them, frying-pan and all, on the table. "Come,
eat while the food is hot. And give nothing," he repeated,
returning to the attack. "You and I ride in no carriages with
gilt wheels. We work, or, failing work, we starve. Their feet
are on our necks. But one use they have for us, you and me, my
friend - to tax us."
"The taxes are not heavy," quoth old Adelbert.
"There are some who find them so." The concierge heaped his
guest's plate with onions. And old Adelbert, who detested
onions, and was besides in no mood for food, must perforce
"I can cook," boasted his host. "The daughter of my sister
cannot cook. She uses milk, always milk. Feeble dishes, I
call them. Strong meat for strong men, comrade."
Old Adelbert played with his steel fork. "I was a good
patriot," he observed nervously, "until they made me
"I will make you a better. A patriot is one who is zealous for
his country and its welfare. That means much. It means that
when the established order is bad for a country, it must be
changed. Not that you and I may benefit. God knows, we may
not live to benefit. But that Livonia may free her neck from
the foot of the oppressor, and raise her head among nations."
>From which it may be seen that old Adelbert had at last joined
the revolutionary party, an uneasy and unhappy recruit, it is
true, but - a recruit. "If only some half-measure would
suffice," he said, giving up all pretense of eating. "This
talk of rousing the mob, of rioting and violence, I do not like
"Then has age turned the blood in your veins to water!" said
the concierge contemptuously. "Half-measures! Since when has
a half-measure been useful? Did half-measures win in your
boasted battles? And what half-measures would you propose? "
Old Adelbert sat silent. Now and then, because his mouth was
dry, he took a sip of beer from his tankard. The concierge
ate, taking huge mouthfuls of onions and bread, and surveying
his feeble-hearted recruit with appraising eyes. To win him
would mean honor, for old Adelbert, decorated for many
braveries, was a power among the veterans. Where he led,
others would follow.
"Make no mistake," said Black Humbert cunningly. "We aim at no
bloodshed. A peaceful revolution, if possible. The King,
being dead, will suffer not even humiliation. Let the royal
family scatter where it will. We have no designs on women.
The Chancellor, however, must die."
"I make no plea for him," said old Adelbert bitterly. "I wrote
to him also, when I lost my position, and received no reply.
We passed through the same campaigns, as I reminded him, but he
"As for the Crown Prince," observed the concierge, eyeing the
old man over the edge of his tankard, "you know our plan for
him. He will be cared for as my own child, until we get him
beyond the boundaries. Then he will be safely delivered to
those who know nothing of his birth. A private fund of the
Republic will support and educate him."
Old Adelbert's hands twitched. "He is but a child," he said,
"but already he knows his rank."
"It will be wise for him to forget it." His tone was ominous.
Adelbert glanced up quickly, but the Terrorist had seen his
error, and masked it with a grin. "Children forget easily," he
said, "and by this secret knowledge of yours, old comrade, all
can be peacefully done. Until you brought it to me, we were, I
confess, fearful that force would be necessary. To admit the
rabble to the Palace would be dangerous. Mobs go mad at such
moments. But now it may be effected with all decency and
"And the plan?"
"I may tell you this." The concierge shoved his plate away and
bent over the table. "We have set the day as that of the
Carnival. On that day all the people are on the streets.
Processions are forbidden, but the usual costuming with their
corps colors as pompons is allowed. Here and there will be one
of us clad in red, a devil, wearing the colors of His Satanic
Majesty. Those will be of our forces, leaders and
speech-makers. When we secure the Crown Prince, he will be put
into costume until he can be concealed. They will seek, if
there be time, the Prince Ferdinand William Otto. Who will
suspect a child, wearing some fantastic garb of the Carnival?"
"But the King? "inquired old Adelbert in a shaking voice.
"How can you set a day, when the King nay rally? I thought all
hung on the King's death."
The concierge bent closer over the table. "Doctor Wiederman,
the King's physician, is one of us," he whispered. "The King
lives now only because of stimulants to the heart. His body is
already dead. When the stimulants cease, he will die."
Old Adelbert covered his eyes. He had gone too far to retreat
now. Driven by brooding and trouble, he had allied himself
with the powers of darkness.
The stain, he felt, was already on his forehead. But before
him, like a picture on a screen, came the scene by which he had
lived for so many years, the war hospital, the King by his bed,
young then and a very king in looks, pinning on the breast of
his muslin shirt the decoration for bravery.
He sat silent while the concierge cleared the table, and put
the dishes in a pan for his niece to wash. And throughout the
evening he said little. At something before midnight he and
his host were to set out on a grave matter, nothing less than
to visit the Committee of Ten, and impart the old soldier's
discovery. In the interval he sat waiting, and nursing his
grievances to keep them warm.
Men came and went. From beneath the floor came, at intervals,
a regular thudding which he had never heard before, and which
he now learned was a press.
"These are days of publicity," explained the concierge. "Men
are influenced much by the printed word. Already our bulletins
flood the country. On the day of the Carnival the city will
flame with them, printed in red. They will appear, as if by
magic power, everywhere."
"A call to arms?"
"A call to liberty," evaded the concierge.
Not in months had he taken such pleasure in a recruit. He
swaggered about the room, recounting in boastful tones his
influence with the Committee of Ten.
"And with reason," he boasted, pausing before the old soldier.
"I have served them well; here in this house is sufficient
ammunition to fight a great battle. You, now, you know
something of ammunition. You have lived here for a long time.
Yet no portion of this house has been closed to you. Where, at
a guess, is it concealed?"
"It is in this house?"
"So I tell you. Now, where?"
"In the cellar, perhaps."
"Come, I will show you." He led old Adelbert by the elbow to a
window overlooking the yard. Just such an enclosure as each of
the neighboring houses possessed, and surrounded by a high
fence. Here was a rabbit hutch, built of old boards, and
familiar enough to the veteran's eyes; and a dovecote, which
loomed now but a deeper shadow among shadows.
"Carrier-pigeons," explained the concierge. "You have seen
them often, but you suspected nothing, eh? They are my
telegraph. Now, look again, comrade. What else?"
"Barrels," said old Adelbert, squinting. "The winter's refuse
from the building. A - a most untidy spot."
His soldierly soul had revolted for months at the litter under
his window. And somewhere, in the disorder, lay his broken
sword. His sword broken, and he -
"Truly untidy," observed the concierge complacently. "A
studied untidiness, and even then better than a room I shall
show you in the cellar, filled to overflowing with boxes
containing the winter's ashes. Know you," he went on, dropping
his voice, "that these barrels and boxes are but - a third full
of rubbish. Below that in cases is - what we speak of."
"But I thought - a peaceful revolution, a - "
"We prepare for contingencies. Peace if possible. If not,
war. I am telling you much because, by your oath, you are now
one of us, and bound to secrecy. But, beside that, I trust
you. You are a man of your word."
"Yes," said old Adelbert, drawing himself up. "I am a man of
my word. But you cannot fight with cartridges alone."
"We have rifles, also, in other places. Even I do not know
where all of them are concealed." The concierge chuckled in
his beard. "The Committee knows men well. It trusts none too
much. There are other depots throughout the city, each
containing supplies of one sort and another. On the day of the
uprising each patriot will be told where to go for equipment.
Old Adelbert was undoubtedly impressed. He regarded the
concierge with furtive eyes. He, Adelbert, had lived in the
house with this man of parts for years, and had regarded him as
but one of many.
Black Humbert, waiting for the hour to start and filling his
tankard repeatedly, grew loquacious. He hinted of past matters
in which he had proved his value to the cause. Old Adelbert
gathered that, if he had not actually murdered the late Crown
Prince and his wife, he had been closely concerned in it. His
thin, old flesh crept with anxiety. It was a bad business, and
he could not withdraw.
"We should have had the child, too," boasted the concierge,
"and saved much bother. But he had been, unknown to us, sent
to the country. A matter of milk, I believe."
"But you say you do not war on children!"
"Bah! A babe of a few months. Furthermore," said the
concierge, "I have a nose for the police. I scent a spy, as a
dog scents a bone. Who, think you, discovered Haeckel?"
"Haeckel!" Old Adelbert sat upright in his chair.
"Aye, Haeckel, Haeckel the jovial, the archconspirator, who
himself assisted to erect the press you hear beneath your feet.
Who but I? I suspected him. He was too fierce. He had no
caution. He was what a peaceful citizen may fancy a
revolutionist to be. I watched him. He was not brave. He was
reckless because he had nothing to fear. And at last I caught
Old Adelbert was sitting forward on the edge of his chair; his
jaw dropped. "And what then?" he gasped. "He was but a boy.
Perhaps you misjudged him. Boys are reckless."
"I caught him," said the concierge. "I have said it. He knew
much. He had names, places, even dates. For that matter; he
"Then he is dead?" quavered old Adelbert.
The concierge shrugged his shoulders. "Of course," he said
briefly. "For a time he was kept here, in an upper room. He
could have saved himself, if he would. We could have used him.
But he turned sulky, refused speech, did not eat. When he was
taken away," he added with unction, "he was so weak that he
could not walk." He rose and consulted a great silver watch.
"We can go now," he said. "The Committee likes promptness."
They left together, the one striding out with long steps that
were surprisingly light for his size, the other, hanging back a
trifle, as one who walks because he must. Old Adelbert, who
had loved his King better than his country, was a lagging
"patriot" that night. His breath came short and labored. His
throat was dry. As they passed the Opera, however, he threw
his head up. The performance was over, but the great house was
still lighted, and in the foyer, strutting about, was his
successor. Old Adelbert quickened his steps.
At the edge of the Place, near the statue of the Queen, they
took a car, and so reached the borders of the city. After that
they walked far. The scent of the earth, fresh-turned by the
plough, was in their nostrils. Cattle, turned out after the
long winter, grazed or lay in the fields. Through the ooze of
the road the two plodded; old Adelbert struggling through with
difficulty, the concierge exhorting him impatiently to haste.
At last the leader paused, and surveyed his surroundings: "Here
I must cover your eyes, comrade," he said. "It is a formality
all must comply with."
Old Adelbert drew back. "I do not like your rule. I am not as
other men. I must see where I go."
"I shall lead you carefully. And, if you fear, I can carry
you." He chuckled at the thought. But old Adelbert knew well
that he could do it, knew that he was as a child to those
mighty arms. He submitted to the bandage, however, with an ill
grace that caused the concierge to smile.
"It hurts your dignity, eh, old rooster!" he said jovially.
"Others, of greater dignity, have felt the same. But all
submit in the end."
He piloted the veteran among the graves with the ease of
familiarity. Only once he spoke. "Know you where you are?"
"In a field," said Adelbert, "recently ploughed."
"Aye, in a field, right enough. But one which sows corruption,
and raises nothing, until perhaps great St. Gabriel calls in
Then, realizing the meaning of the mounds over which he trod,
old Adelbert crossed himself.
"Only a handful know of this meeting-place," boasted the
concierge. "I, and a few others. Only we may meet with the
Committee face to face."
"You must have great influence," observed old Adelbert timidly.
"I control the guilds. He who to-day can sway labor to his
will is powerful, very powerful comrade. Labor is the great
beast which tires of carrying burdens, and is but now learning
"Aye," said old Adelbert. "Had I been wise, I would have
joined a guild. Then I might have kept my place at the Opera.
As it is, I stood alone, and they put me out."
"You do not stand alone now. Stand by us, and we will support
you. The Republic will not forget its friends."
Thus heartened, old Adelbert brightened up somewhat. Why
should he, an old soldier, sweat at the thought of blood?
Great changes required heroic measures. It was because he was
old that he feared change. He stumped through the passageway
without urging, and stood erect and with shoulders squared
while the bandage was removed.
He was rather longer than Olga Loschek had been in
comprehending his surroundings. His old eyes at first saw
little but the table and its candles in their gruesome holders.
But when he saw the Committee his heart failed. Here, embodied
before him, was everything he had loathed during all his
upright and loyal years anarchy, murder, treason. His face
worked. The cords in his neck stood out like strings drawn to
The concierge was speaking. For all his boasting, he was ill
at ease. His voice had lost its bravado, and had taken on a
"This is the man of whom word was sent to the Committee," he
said. "I ventured to ask that he be allowed to come here,
because he brings information of value,"
"Step forward, comrade," said the leader. "What is your name
"Adelbert, Excellency. As to occupation, for years I was
connected with the Opera. Twenty years, Excellency. Then I
grew old, and another - " His voice broke. What with
excitement and terror, he was close to tears. "Now I am
reduced to selling tickets for an American contrivance, a
foolish thing, but I earn my bread by it."
He paused, but the silence continued unbroken. The battery of
eyes behind the masks was turned squarely on him.
Old Adelbert fidgeted. "Before that, in years gone by, I was
in the army," he said, feeling that more was expected of him,
and being at a loss. "I fought hard, and once, when I suffered
the loss you perceive, the King himself came to my bed, and
decorated me. Until lately, I have been loyal. Now, I am -
here." His face worked.
"What is the information that brings you here?"
Suddenly old Adelbert wept, terrible tears that forced their
way from his faded eyes, and ran down his cheeks. "I cannot,
Excellencies!" he cried. "I find I cannot."
He collapsed into the chair, and throwing his arms across the
table bowed his head on them. His shoulders heaved under his
old uniform. The Committee stirred, and the concierge caught
him brutally by the wrist.
"Up with you!" he said, from clenched teeth. "What stupidity
is this? Would you play with death?"
But old Adelbert was beyond fear. He shook his head. "I
cannot," he muttered, his face hidden.
Then the concierge stood erect and folded his arms across his
chest. "He is terrified, that is all," he said. "If the
Committee wishes, I can tell them of this matter. Later, he
can be interrogated."
The leader nodded.
"By chance," said the concierge, "this - this brave veteran" -
he glanced contemptuously at the huddled figure in the chair
has come across an old passage, the one which rumor has said
lay under the city wall, and for which we have at different
times instituted search."
He paused, to give his words weight. That they were of supreme
interest could be told by the craning forward of the Committee.
"The entrance is concealed at the base of the old Gate of the
Moon. Our friend here followed it, and reports it in good
condition. For a mile or thereabouts it follows the line of
the destroyed wall. Then it turns and goes to the Palace
"Into the Palace?"
"By a flight of stairs, inside the wall, to a door in the roof.
This door, which was locked, he opened, having carried keys
with him. The door he describes as in the tower. As it was
night, he could not see clearly, but the roof at that point is
"Stand up, Adelbert," said the leader sharply. "This that our
comrade tells is true?"
"It is true, Excellency."
"Shown a diagram of the Palace, could you locate this door?"
Old Adelbert stared around him hopelessly. It was done now.
Nothing that he could say or refuse to say would change that.
When, soon after, a chart of the Palace was placed on a table,
he indicated the location of the door with a trembling
forefinger. "It is there," he said thickly. "And may God
forgive me for the thing I have done!"
"They love us dearly!" said King Karl.
The Chancellor, who sat beside him in the royal carriage,
shrugged his shoulders. "They have had little reason to love,
in the past, Majesty," he said briefly.
Karl laughed, and watched the crowd. He and the Chancellor
rode alone, Karl's entourage, a very modest one, following in
another carriage. There was no military escort, no pomp. It
had been felt unwise. Karl, paying ostensibly a visit of
sympathy, had come unofficially.
"But surely," he observed, as they passed between sullen lines
of people, mostly silent, but now and then giving way to a
muttering that sounded ominously like a snarl, - "surely I may
make a visit of sympathy without exciting their wrath!"
"They are children," said Mettlich contemptuously. "Let one
growl, and all growl. Let some one start a cheer, and they
will cheer themselves hoarse."
"Then let some one cheer, for God's sake!" said Karl, and
turned his mocking smile to the packed streets.
The Chancellor was not so calm as he appeared. He had lined
the route from the station to the Palace with his men; had
prepared for every contingency so far as he could without
calling out the guard. As the carriage, drawn by its four
chestnut horses, moved slowly along the streets, his eyes under
their overhanging thatch were watching ahead, searching the
crowd for symptoms of unrest.
Anger he saw in plenty, and suspicion. Scowling faces and
frowning brows. But as yet there was no disorder. He sat with
folded arms, magnificent in his uniform beside Karl, who wore
civilian dress and looked less royal than perhaps he felt.
And Karl, too, watched the crowd, feeling its temper and
feigning an indifference he did not feel. Olga Loschek had
been right. He did not want trouble. More than that, he was
of an age now to crave popularity. Many of the measures which
had made him beloved in his own land had no higher purpose than
this, the smiles of the crowd. So he watched and talked of
"It is ten years since I have been here," he observed, "but
there are few changes."
"We have built no great buildings," said Mettlich bluntly.
"Wars have left us no money, Majesty, for building!"
That being a closed road, so to speak, Karl tried another.
"The Crown Prince must be quite a lad," he experimented. "He
was a babe in arms, then, but frail, I thought."
"He is sturdy now." The Chancellor relapsed into watchfulness.
"Before I see the Princess Hedwig," Karl made another attempt,
"it might be well to tell me how she feels about things. I
would like to feel that the prospect is at least not
disagreeable to her."
The Chancellor was not listening. There was trouble ahead. It
had come, then, after all. He muttered something behind his
gray mustache. The horses stopped, as the crowd suddenly
closed in front of them.
"Drive on!" he said angrily, and the coachman touched his whip
to the horses. But they only reared, to be grasped at the
bridles by hostile hands ahead.
Karl half rose from his seat.
"Sit still, Majesty," said the Chancellor. "It is the
students. They will talk, that is all."
But it came perilously near to being a riot. Led by some
students, pushed by others, the crowd surrounded the two
carriages, first muttering, then yelling. A stone was hurled,
and struck one of the horses. Another dented the body of the
carriage itself. A man with a handkerchief tied over the lower
half of his face mounted the shoulders of two companions, and
harangued the crowd. They wanted no friendship with Karnia.
There were those who would sell them out to their neighbor and
enemy. Were they to lose their national existence? He
exhorted them madly through the handkerchief. Others, further
back, also raised above the mob, shrieked treason, and called
the citizens to arm against this thing. A Babel of noise, of
swinging back and forth, of mounted police pushing through to
surround the carriage, of cries and the dominating voices of
the student-demagogues. Then at last a semblance of order, low
muttering, an escort of police with drawn revolvers around the
carriage, and it moved ahead.
Through it all the Chancellor had sat with folded arms. Only
his livid face told of his fury. Karl, too, had sat impassive,
picking at his small mustache. But, as the carriage moved on,
he said: "A few moments ago I observed that there had been few
changes. But there has been, I perceive, after all, a great
"One cannot judge the many by the few, Majesty."
But Karl only raised his eyebrows.
In his rooms, removing the dust of his journey, broken by the
automobile trip across the mountains where the two railroads
would some day meet, Karl reflected on the situation. His
amour-propre was hurt. Things should have been better managed,
for one thing. It was inexcusable that he had been subjected
to such a demonstration. But, aside from the injury to his
pride, was a deeper question. If this was the temper of the
people now, what would it be when they found their suspicions
justified? Had Ogla Loschek been right after all, and not
merely jealous? And if she were, was the game worth the
Pacing the drawing-room of his suite with a cigarette, and
cursing the tables and bric-a-brac with which it was cluttered,
Karl was of a mind to turn back, after all, Even the prospect
which his Ministers had not failed to recognize, of the Crown
Prince never reaching his maturity, was a less pleasing one
than it had been. A dual monarchy, one portion of it restless
and revolutionary, was less desirable than the present peace
and prosperity of Karnia. And unrest was contagious. He might
find himself in a difficult position.
He was, indeed, even now in a difficult position.
He glanced about his rooms. In one of them Prince Hubert had
met his death. It was well enough for Mettlich to say the few
could not speak for the many. It took but one man to do a
murder, Karl reflected grimly.
But when he arrived for tea in the Archduchess's white
drawing-room he was urbane and smiling. Hedwig, standing with
cold hands and terrified eyes by the tea-table, disliked both
his urbanity and his smile. He kissed the hand of the
Archduchess and bent over Hedwig's with a flash of white teeth.
Then he saw Olga Loschek, and his smile stiffened. The
Countess came forward, curtsied, and as he extended his hand to
her, touched it lightly with her lips. They were quite cold.
For just an instant their eyes met.
It was, on the surface, an amiable and quiet teaparty. Hilda,
in a new frock, flirted openly with the King, and read his
fortune in tea-leaves. Hedwig had taken up her position by a
window, and was conspicuously silent. Behind her were the soft
ring of silver against china; the Countess's gay tones; Karl's
suave ones, assuming gravity, as he inquired for His Majesty;
the Archduchess Annunciata pretending a solicitude she did not
feel. And all forced, all artificial, Olga Loschek's heart
burning in her, and Karl watching Hedwig with open admiration
and some anxiety.
"Grandmother," Hedwig whispered from her window to the austere
old bronze figure in the Place, "was it like this with you, at
first? Did you shiver when he touched your hand? And doesn't
it matter, after a year?"
"Very feeble," said the Archduchess's voice; behind her, "but
so brave - a lesson to us all."
"He has had a long and conspicuous career," Karl observed. "It
is sad, but we must all come to it. I hope he will be able to
"Hedwig,!" said her mother, sharply, "your tea is getting
Hedwig turned toward the room. Listlessness gave her an added
dignity, a new charm. Karl's eyes flamed as he watched her.
He was a connoisseur in women; he had known many who were
perhaps more regularly beautiful, but none, he felt, so lovely.
Her freshness and youth made Olga, beautifully dressed,
superbly easy, look sophisticated and a trifle hard. Even her
coldness appealed to him. He had a feeling that the coldness
was only a young girl's armor, that under it was a deeply
passionate woman. The thought of seeing her come to deep,
vibrant life in his arms thrilled him.
When he carried her tea to her, he bent over her. "Please!"
he said. "Try to like me. I - "
"I'm sorry," Hedwig said quickly. "Mother has forgotten the
Karl smiled and, shrugging his shoulders, fetched the lemon.
"Right, now?" he inquired. "And aren't we going to have a talk
"If you wish it, I dare say we shall."
"Majesty," said Hilda, frowning into her teacup. "I see a
marriage for you." She ignored her mother's scowl, and tilted
her cup to examine it.
"A marriage!" Karl joined her, and peered with mock anxiety at
the tea-grounds. "Strange that my fate should be confined in
so small a compass! A happy marriage? Which am I?"
"The long yellow leaf. Yes, it looks happy. But you may be
rather shocked when I tell you."
"I think," said Hilda. grinning, "that you are going to marry
"And we are going to have - "
"Hilda!" cried the Archduchess fretfully. "Do stop that
nonsense and let us talk. I was trying to recall, this
morning," she said to Karl, "when you last visited us." She
knew it quite well, but she preferred having Karl think she had
forgotten. "It was, I believe, just before Hubert - "
"Yes," said Karl gravely, "just before."
"Otto was a baby then."
"A very small child. I remember that I was afraid to handle
"He is a curious boy, old beyond his years. Rather a little
prig, I think. He has an English governess, and she has made
him quite a little woman."
Karl laughed, but Hedwig flushed.
"He is not that sort at all," she declared stoutly. "He is
lonely and - and rather pathetic. The truth is that no one
really cares for him, except - "
"Except Captain Larisch!" said the Archduchess smoothly. "You
and he, Hedwig, have done your best by him, surely."
The bit of byplay was not lost on Karl - the sudden stiffening
of Hedwig's back, Olga's narrowed eyes. Olga had been right,
then. Trust her for knowing facts when they were disagreeable.
His eyes became set and watchful, hard, too, had any noticed.
There were ways to deal with such a situation, of course. They
were giving him this girl to secure their own safety, and she
knew it. Had he not been so mad about her he might have pitied
her, but he felt no pity, only a deep and resentful
determination to get rid of Nikky, and then to warm her by his
own fire. He might have to break her first. After that manner
had many Queens of Karnia come to the throne. He smiled behind
his small mustache.
When tea was almost over, the Crown Prince was announced. He
came in, rather nervously, with hie hands thrust in his
trousers pockets. He was very shiny with soap and water and
his hair was still damp from parting. In his tailless black
jacket, his long gray trousers, and his round Eton collar, he
looked like a very anxious little schoolboy, and not royal at
Greetings over, and having requested that his tea be half milk,
with four lumps of sugar, he carried his cup over beside
Hedwig, and sat down on a chair. Followed a short silence,
with the Archduchess busy with the tea-things, Olga Loschek
watching Karl, and Karl intently surveying the Crown Prince.
Ferdinand William Otto, who disliked a silence, broke it first.
"I've just taken off my winter flannels," he observed. "I feel
very smooth and nice underneath."
Hilda giggled, but Hedwig reached over and stroked his arm.
"Of course you do," she said gently.
"Nikky," continued Prince Ferdinand William Otto, stirring his
tea, "does not wear any flannels. Miss Braithwaite thinks he
is very careless."
King Karl's eyes gleamed with amusement. He saw the infuriated
face of the Archduchess, and bent toward the Crown Prince with
"As a matter of fact," he said, "since you have mentioned the
subject, I do not wear any either. Your 'Nikky' and I seem
most surprisingly to have the same tastes - about various
Annunciata was in the last stages of irritation. There was no
mistaking the sneer in Karl's voice. His smile was forced.
She guessed that he had heard of Nikky Larisch before, that,
indeed, he knew probably more than she did. Just what, she
wondered, was there to know? A great deal, if one could judge
by Hedwig's face.
"I hope you are working hard at your lesson, Otto," she said,
in the severe tone which Otto had learned that most people use
when they refer to lessons.
"I'm afraid I'm not doing very well, Tante. But I've learned
the 'Gettysburg Address.' Shall I say it?"
"Heavens, no!" she protested. She had not the faintest idea
what the "Gettysburg Address" was. She suspected Mr.
The Countess had relapsed into silence. A little back from the
family circle, she had watched the whole scene stonily, and
knowing Karl as only a woman who loves sincerely and long can
know a man, she knew the inner workings of his mind. She saw
anger in the very turn of his head and set of his jaw. But she
saw more, jealousy, and was herself half mad with it.
She knew him well. She had herself, for years, held him by
holding herself dear, by the very difficulty of attaining her.
And now this indifferent, white-faced girl, who might be his,
indeed, for the taking, but who would offer or promise no love,
was rousing him to the instinct of possession by her very
indifference. He had told her the truth, that night in the
mountain inn. It was Hedwig he wanted, Hedwig herself, her
heart, all of her. And, if she knew Karl, he would move heaven
and earth to get the thing he wanted.
She surveyed the group. How little they knew what was in store
for them! She, Olga Loschek, by the lifting of a finger, could
turn their smug superiority into tears and despair, could ruin
them and send them flying for shelter to the very ends of the
But when she looked at the little Crown Prince, legs dangling,
eating his thin bread and butter as only a hungry small boy can
eat, she shivered. By what means must she do all this! By
what unspeakable means!
Karl saw the King that evening, a short visit marked by extreme
formality, and, on the King's part, by the keen and frank
scrutiny of one who is near the end and fears nothing but the
final moment. Karl found the meeting depressing and the King's
"It will not be easy going for Otto," said the King, at the end
of the short interview. "I should like to feel that his
interests will be looked after, not only here, but by you and
yours. We have a certain element here that is troublesome."
And Karl, with Hedwig in his mind, had promised.
"His interests shall be mine, sir," he had said.
He had bent over the bed then, and raised the thin hand to his
lips. The interview was over. In the anteroom the King's
Master of the Horse, the Chamberlain, and a few other gentlemen
stood waiting, talking together in low tones. But the
Chancellor, who had gone in with Karl and then retired, stood
by a window, with his arms folded over his chest, and waited.
He put resolutely out of his mind the face of the dying man on
his pillows, and thought only of this thing which he - Mettlich
had brought about. There was no yielding in his face or in his
heart, no doubt of his course. He saw, instead of the lovers
loitering in the Place, a new and greater kingdom, anarchy held
down by an ironshod heel, peace and the fruits thereof, until
out of very prosperity the people grew fat and content.
He saw a boy king, carefully taught, growing into his
responsibilities until, big with the vision of the country's
welfare, he should finally ascend the throne. He saw the river
filled with ships, carrying merchandise over the world and
returning with the wealth of the world. Great buildings, too,
lifted their heads on his horizon, a dream city, with order for
disorder, and citizens instead of inhabitants.
When at last he stirred and sighed, it was because his old
friend, in his bed in the next room, would see nothing of all
this, and that he himself could not hope for more than the
beginning, before his time came also.
The first large dinner for months was given that night at the
Palace, to do King Karl all possible honor. The gold service
which had been presented to the King by the Czar of Russia was
used. The anticipatory gloom of the Court was laid aside, and
jewels brought from vaults were worn for the first time in
months. Uniforms of various sorts, but all gorgeous, touched
fine shoulders, and came away, bearing white, powdery traces of
the meeting. The greenhouses at the summer palace had been
sacked for flowers and plants. The corridor from the great
salon to the dining-hall; always a dreary passage, had suddenly
become a fairy path of early-spring bloom. Even Annunciata,
hung now with ropes of pearls, her hair dressed high for a
tiara of diamonds, her cameos exchanged for pearls, looked
royal. Proving conclusively that clutter, as to dress, is
entirely a matter of value.
Miss Braithwaite, who had begun recently to think a palace the
dreariest place in the world, and the most commonplace, found
the preparations rather exciting. Being British she dearly
loved the aristocracy, and shrugged her shoulders at any family
which took up less than a page in the peerage. She resented
deeply the intrusion of the commoner into British politics, and
considered Lloyd George an upstart and an interloper.
That evening she took the Crown Prince to see the preparations
for the festivities. The flowers appealed to him, and he asked
for and secured a rose, which he held carefully. But the
magnificence of the table only faintly impressed him, and when
he heard that Nikky would not be present, he lost interest
entirely. "Will they wheel my grandfather in a chair?" he
"He is too ill," Miss Braithwaite said.
"He'll be rather lonely, when they're all at the party. You
don't suppose I could go and sit with him, do you?"
"It will be long after your bedtime."
Bedtime being the one rule which was never under any
circumstances broken, he did not persist. To have insisted
might have meant five off in Miss Braithwaite's book, and his
record was very good that week. Together the elderly
Englishwoman and the boy went back to the schoolroom.
The Countess Loschek, who had dressed with a heavy heart, was
easily the most beautiful of the women that night. Her color
was high with excitement and anger, her eyes flashed, her
splendid shoulders gleamed over the blue and orchid shades of
her gown. A little court paid tribute to her beauty, and bowed
the deeper and flattered the more as she openly scorned and
flouted them. She caught once a flicker of admiration in
Karl's face, and although her head went high, her heart beat
stormily under it.
Hedwig was like a flower that required the sun. Only her sun
was happiness. She was in soft white chiffons, her hair and
frock alike girlish and unpretentious. Her mother, coming into
her dressing room, had eyed her with disfavor.
"You look like a school-girl," she said, and had sent for
rouge, and with her own royal hands applied it. Hedwig stood
silent, and allowed her to have her way without protest. Had
submitted, too, to a diamond pin in her hair, and a string of
her mother's pearls.
"There," said Annunciata, standing off and surveying her, "you
look less like a baby."
She did, indeed? It took Hedwig quite five minutes to wash the
rouge off her face, and there was, one might as well confess, a
moment when a part of the crown jewels of the kingdom lay in a
corner of the room, whence a trembling maid salvaged them, and
examined them for damage.
The Princess Hedwig appeared that evening without rouge, and
was the only woman in the room thus unadorned. Also she wore
her coming-out string of modest pearls and a slightly defiant,
somewhat frightened, expression.
The dinner was endless, which was necessary, since nothing was
to follow but conversation. There could, under the
circumstances, be no dancing. And the talk at the table,
through course after course, was somewhat hectic, even under
the constraining presence of King Karl. There were two reasons
for this: Karl's presence and his purpose - as yet unannounced,
but surmised, and even known - and the situation in the city.
That was bad. The papers had been ordered to make no mention
of the occurrence of the afternoon, but it was well known.
There were many at the table who felt the whole attempt
foolhardy, the setting of a match to inflammable material.
There were others who resented Karl's presence in Livonia, and
all that it implied. And perhaps there were, too, among the
guests, one or more who had but recently sat in less august and
more awful company.
Beneath all the brilliance and chatter, the sparkle and gayety,
there was, then, uneasiness, wretchedness, and even treachery.
And outside the Palace, held back by the guards, there still
stood a part of the sullen crowd which had watched the arrival
of the carriages and automobiles, had craned forward to catch a
glimpse of uniform or brilliantly shrouded figure entering the
Palace, and muttered as it looked.
Dinner was over at last. The party moved back to the salon, a
vast and empty place, hung with tapestries and gayly lighted.
Here the semblance of gayety persisted, and Karl, affability
itself, spoke a few words to each of the guests. Then it was
over. The guests left, the members of the Council, each with a
wife on his arm, frowsy, overdressed women most of them. The
Council was chosen for ability and not for birth. At last only
the suite remained, and constraint vanished.
The family withdrew shortly after - to a small salon off the
large one. And there, at last, Karl cornered Hedwig and
"Where?"she asked, glancing around the crowded room.
"I shall have to leave that to you," he said. "Unless there is
"But do you think it is necessary?"
"Because what I have to say does not matter."
"It matters very much to me," he replied gravely.
Hedwig went first, slipping away quietly and unnoticed. Karl
asked the Archduchess's permission to follow her, and found her
waiting there alone, rather desperately calm now, and with a
tinge of excited color in her cheeks. Because he cared a great
deal, and because, as kings go, he was neither hopelessly bad
nor hard, his first words were kind and genuine, and almost
brought her to tears.
"Poor little girl!" he said.
He had dropped the curtain behind him, and they stood alone.
"Don't," said Hedwig. "I want to be very calm, and I am sorry
for myself already."
"Then you think it is all very terrible?"
She did not reply, and he drew a chair for her to the rail.
When she was seated, he took up his position beside her, one
arm against a pillar.
"I wonder, Hedwig," he said, "if it is not terrible because it
is new to you, and because you do not know me very well. Not,"
he added hastily, "that I think your knowing me well would be
an advantage! I am not so idiotic. But you do not know me at
all, and for a good many years I must have stood in the light
of an enemy. It is not easy to readjust such things - witness
the reception I had to-day!"
"I do not think of you in that way, as - as an enemy."
"Then what is it?"
"Why must we talk about it?" Hedwig demanded, looking up at him
suddenly with a flash of her old spirit. "It will not change
"Perhaps not. Perhaps - yes. You see, I am not quite
satisfied. I do not want you, unless you are willing. It
would be a poor bargain for me, and not quite fair."
A new turn, this, with a vengeance! Hedwig stared up with
startled eyes. It was not enough to be sacrificed. And as she
realized all that hung on the situation, the very life of the
kingdom, perhaps the safety of her family, everything, she
closed her eyes for fear he might see the fright in them.
Karl bent over and took one of her cold hands between his two
warm ones. "Little Hedwig," he said, "I want you to come
willingly because - I care a great deal. I would like you to
care, too. Don't you think you would, after a time?"
"After a time!" said Hedwig drearily. "That's what they all
say. After a time it doesn't matter. Marriage is always the
same - after a time."
Karl rather winced at that, and released her hands, but put
them down gently. "Why should marriage be always the same,
after a time?" he inquired.
"This sort of marriage, without love."
"It is hardly that, is it? I love you."
"I wonder how much you love me."
Karl smiled. He was on his own ground here. The girlish
question put him at ease. "Enough for us both, at first," he
said. "After that - "
"But," said Hedwig desperately, "suppose I know I shall never
care for you, the way you will want me to. You talk of being
fair. I want to be fair to you. You have a right - " She
checked herself abruptly. After all, he might have a right to
know about Nikky Larisch. But there were others who had
rights, too - Otto to his throne, her mother and Hilda and all
the others, to safety, her grandfather to die in peace, the
only gift she could give him.
"What I think you want to tell me, is something I already
know," Karl said gravely. "Suppose I am willing to take that
chance? Suppose I am vain enough, or fool enough, to think
that I can make you forget certain things, certain people.
"I do not forget easily."
"But you would try?"
"I would try," said Hedwig, almost in a whisper.
Karl bent over and taking her hands, raised her to her feet.
"Darling," he said, and suddenly drew her to him. He covered
her with hot kisses, her neck, her face, the soft angle below
her ear. Then he held her away from him triumphantly. "Now,"
he said, "have you forgotten?"
But Hedwig, scarlet with shame, faced him steadily. "No," she
Later in the evening the old King received a present, a rather
wilted rose, to which was pinned a card with "Best wishes from
Ferdinand William Otto" printed on it in careful letters.
It was the only flower the King had received during his
When, that night, he fell asleep, it was still clasped in his
old hand, and there was a look of grim tenderness on the face
on the pillow, turned toward his dead son's picture.
LET METTLICH GUARD HIS TREASURE
Troubled times now, with the Carnival only a day or two off,
and the shop windows gay with banners; with the press under the
house of the concierge running day and night, and turning out
vast quantities of flaming bulletins printed in red; with the
Committee of Ten in almost constant session, and Olga Loschek
summoned before it, to be told of the passage, and the thing
she was to do; with the old King very close to the open door,
and Hedwig being fitted for her bridal robe and for somber
black at one fitting.
Troubled times, indeed. The city was smouldering, and from
some strange source had come a new rumor. Nothing less than
that the Royalists, headed by the Chancellor, despairing of
crowning the boy Prince, would, on the King's death, make away
with him, thus putting Hedwig on the throne Hedwig, Queen of
Karnia perhaps already by secret marriage.
The city, which adored the boy, was seething. The rumor had
originated with Olga Loschek, who had given it to the Committee
as a useful weapon. Thus would she have her revenge on those
of the Palace, and at the same time secure her own safety.
Revenge, indeed, for she knew the way of such rumors, how they
fly from house to house, street to street. How the innocent,
proclaiming their innocence, look even the more guilty.
When she had placed the scheme before the Committee of Ten, had
seen the eagerness with which they grasped it - "In this way,"
she had said, in her scornful, incisive tones, "the onus of the
boy is not on you, but on them. Even those who have no
sympathy with your movement will burn at such a rumor. The
better the citizen, the more a lover of home and order, the
more outraged he will be. Every man in the city with a child
of his own will rise against the Palace."
"Madame," the leader had said, "you should be of the
But she had ignored the speech contemptuously, and gone on to
Now everything was arranged. Black Humbert had put his niece
to work on a Carnival dress for a small boy, and had stayed her
curiosity by a hint that it was for the American lad.
"They are comfortable tenants," he had said. "Not lavish,
perhaps, as rich Americans should be, but orderly, and
pleasant. The boy has good manners. It would be well to
So the niece, sewing in the back room, watched Bobby in and
out, with pleasant mysteries in her eyes, and sewing sang the
song the cathedral chimed:
"Draw me also, Mary mild,
To adore Thee and thy Child!
Star in desert drear and wild."
So she sang, and sewed, and measured Bobby's height as he
passed by the wainscoting in the passage, and cunningly cut a
"So high," she reflected, humming, "is his shoulder. And so,
to this panel, should go the little trousers. 'Star in desert
drear and wild.'"
Now and then, in the evenings, when the Americans were away,
and Bobby was snug in bed, with Tucker on the tiny feather
comfort at his feet, the Fraulein would come downstairs and sit
in Black Humbert's room. At such times the niece would be sent
on an errand, and the two would talk. The niece, who, although
she had no lover, was on the lookout for love, suspected a
romance of the middle-aged, and smiled in the half-darkness of
the street; smiled with a touch of malice, as one who has
pierced the armor of the fortress, and knows its weakness.
But it was not of love that Humbert and the Fraulein talked.
Herman Spier was busy in those days and making plans. Thus,
day by day, he dined in the restaurant where the little Marie,
now weary of her husband, sat in idle intervals behind the
cashier's desk, and watched the grass in the Place emerge from
its winter hiding place. When she turned her eyes to the room,
frequently she encountered those of Herman
Spier, pale yet burning, fixed on her. And at last, one day
when her husband lay lame with sciatica, she left the desk and
paused by Herman's table.
"You come frequently now," she observed. "It is that you like
us here, or that you have risen in the shop?"
"I have left the shop," said Herman, staring at her. Flesh, in
a moderate amount, suited her well. He liked plump women.
They were, if you please, an armful. "And I come to see you."
"Left the shop!" Marie exclaimed. "And Peter Niburg - he has
left also? I never see him."
"No," said Herman non-committally.
"He is ill, perhaps?"
"He is dead," said Herman, devouring her with his eyes.
"Dead!" She put a hand to her plump side.
"Aye. Shot as a spy." He took another piece of the excellent
pigeon pie. Marie, meantime, lost all her looks, grew pasty
"Of the - the Terrorists?" she demanded, in a whisper.
"Terrorists! No. Of Karnia. He was no patriot."
So the little Marie went back to her desk, and to her staring
out over the Place in intervals of business. And what she
thought of no one can know. But that night, and thereafter,
she was very tender to her spouse, and put cloths soaked in hot
turpentine water on his aching thigh.
On the surface things went on as usual at the Palace. Karl's
visit had been but for a day or two. He had met the Council in
session, and had had, because of their growing alarm, rather
his own way with them.
But although he had pointed to the King's condition and theirs
- as an argument for immediate marriage - he failed. The thing
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