Long Live the King
Mary Roberts Rinehart
Part 7 out of 8
would be done, but properly and in good time. They had a
signed agreement to fall back upon, and were in no hurry to pay
his price. Karl left them in a bad temper, well concealed, and
had the pleasure of being hissed through the streets.
But he comforted himself with the thought of Hedwig. He had
taken her in his arms before he left, and she had made no
resistance. She had even, in view of all that was at stake,
made a desperate effort to return his kiss, and found herself
In two weeks he was to return to her, and he whispered that to
On the day after the dinner-party Otto went to a hospital with
Miss Braithwaite. It was the custom of the Palace to send the
flowers from its spectacular functions to the hospitals, and
the Crown Prince delighted in these errands.
So they went, escorted by the functionaries of the hospital,
past the military wards, where soldiers in shabby uniforms sat
on benches in the spring sunshine, to the general wards beyond.
The Crown Prince was almost hidden behind the armful he
carried. Miss Braithwaite had all she could hold. A
convalescent patient, in slippers many sizes too large for him,
wheeled the remainder in a barrow, and almost upset the barrow
in his excitement.
Through long corridors into wards fresh-scrubbed against his
arrival, with white counterpanes exactly square, and patients
forbidden to move and disturb the geometrical exactness of the
beds, went Prince Ferdinand William Otto. At each bed he
stopped, selected a flower, and held it out. Some there were
who reached out, and took it with a smile. Others lay still,
and saw neither boy nor blossom.
"They sleep, Highness," the nurse would say.
"But their eyes are open."
"They are very weary, and resting."
In such cases he placed the flower on the pillow, and went on.
One such; however, lying with vacant eyes fixed on the ceiling,
turned and glanced at the boy, and into his empty gaze crept a
faint intelligence. It was not much. He seemed to question
with his eyes. That was all. As the little procession moved
on, however, he raised himself on his elbow.
"Lie down!" said the man in the next bed sharply.
"Who was that?"
The ward, which might have been interested, was busy keeping
its covers straight and in following the progress of the party.
For the man had not spoken before.
"The Crown Prince."
The sick man lay back and dosed his eyes. Soon he slept. His
comrade in the next bed beckoned to a Sister.
"He has spoken," he said. "Either he recovers, or - he dies."
But again Haeckel did not die. He lived to do his part in the
coming crisis, to prove that even the great hands of Black
Humbert on his throat were not so strong as his own young
spirit; lived, indeed, to confront the Terrorist as one risen
from the dead. But that day he lay and slept, by curious irony
the flower from Karl's banquet in a cup of water beside him.
On the day before the Carnival, Hedwig had a visitor, none
other than the Countess Loschek. Hedwig, all her color gone
now, her high spirit crushed, her heart torn into fragments and
neatly distributed between Nikky, who had most of it, the Crown
Prince, and the old King. Hedwig, having given her permission
to come, greeted her politely but without enthusiasm.
"Highness!" said the Countess, surveying her. And then, "You
poor child!" using Karl's words, but without the same
inflection, using, indeed, the words a good many were using to
Hedwig in those days.
"I am very tired," Hedwig explained. "All this fitting, and -
"I know, perhaps better than you think, Highness." Also
something like Karl's words. Hedwig reflected with bitterness
that everybody knew, but nobody helped her. And, as if in
answer to the thought, Olga Loschek came out plainly.
"Highness," she said, "may I speak to you frankly?"
"Please do," Hedwig replied. "Everybody does, anyhow.
Especially when it is something disagreeable."
Olga Loschek watched her warily. She knew the family as only
the outsider could know it; knew that Hedwig, who would have
disclaimed the fact, was like her mother in some things,
notably in a disposition to be mild until a certain moment,
submissive, even acquiescent, and then suddenly to become, as
it were, a royalty and grow cold, haughty. But if Hedwig was
driven in those days, so was the Countess, desperate and driven
to desperate methods.
"I am presuming, Highness, on your mother's kindness to me, and
your own, to speak frankly."
"Well, go on," said Hedwig resignedly. But the next words
brought her up in her chair.
"Are you going to allow your life to be ruined?" was what the
Careful! Hedwig had thrown up her head and looked at her with
hostile eyes. But the next moment she had forgotten she was a
princess, and the granddaughter to the King, and remembered
only that she was a woman, and terror-stricken. She flung out
her arms, and then buried her face in them.
"How can I help it?" she said.
"How can you do it?" Olga Loschek countered. "After all, it is
you who must do this thing. No one else. It is you they are
offering on the altar of their ambition."
"Ambition. What else is it? Surely you do not believe these
tales they tell - old wives' tales of plot and counterplot!"
"But the Chancellor - "
"Certainly the Chancellor!" mocked Olga Loschek. "Highness,
for years he has had a dream. A great dream. It is not for
you and me to say it is not noble. But, to fulfill his dream
to bring prosperity and greatness to the country, and
naturally, to him who plans it, there is a price to pay. He
would have you pay it."
Hedwig raised her face and searched the other woman's eyes.
"That is all, then?" she said. "All this other, this fright,
this talk of treason and danger, that is not true?"
"Not so true as he would have you believe," replied Olga
Loschek steadily. "There are malcontents everywhere, in every
land. A few madmen who dream dreams, like Mettlich himself,
only not the same dream. It is all ambition, one dream or
"But my grandfather -"
"An old man, in the hands of his Ministers!"
Hedwig rose and paced the floor, her fingers twisting
nervously. "But it is too late," she cried at last.
"Everything is arranged. I cannot refuse now. They would - I
don't know what they would do to me!"
"Do! To the granddaughter of the King. What can they do?"
That aspect of things; to do her credit, had never occurred to
Hedwig. She had seen herself, hopeless and alone, surrounded
by the powerful, herself friendless. But, if there was no
danger to save her family from? If her very birth, which had
counted so far for so little, would bring her immunity and even
She paused in front of the Countess. "What can I do?" she
"That I dare not presume to say. I came because I felt - I can
only say what, in your place, I should do."
"I am afraid. You would not be afraid." Hedwig shivered.
"What would you do? "
"If I knew, Highness, that some one, for whom I cared, himself
cared deeply enough to make any sacrifice, I should demand
happiness. I rather think I should lose the world, and gain
something like happiness."
"Demand!" Hedwig said hopelessly. "Yes, you would demand it.
I cannot demand things. I am always too frightened."
The Countess rose. "I am afraid I have done an unwise thing,"
she said., "If your mother knew -" She shrugged her shoulders.
"You have only been kind. I have so few who really care."
The Countess curtsied, and made for the door. "I must go," she
said, "before I go further, Highness. My apology is that I saw
you unhappy, and that I resented it, because - "
"Because I considered it unnecessary."
She was a very wise woman. She left then, and let the next
step come from Hedwig. It followed, as a matter of record,
within the hour, at least four hours sooner than she had
anticipated. She was in her boudoir, not reading, not even
thinking, but sitting staring ahead, as Minna had seen her do
repeatedly in the past weeks. She dared not think, for that
Although she was still in waiting, the Archduchess was making
few demands on her. A very fever of preparation was on
Annunciata. She spent hours over laces and lingerie, was
having jewels reset for Hedwig, after ornate designs of her own
contribution, was the center of a cyclone of boxes, tissue
paper, material, furs, and fashion books, while maids scurried
about and dealers and dressmakers awaited her pleasure. She
was, perhaps, happier than she had been for years, visited her
father, absently and with pins stuck in her bosom, and looked
dowdier and busier than the lowliest of the seamstresses who,
by her thrifty order, were making countless undergarments in a
room on an upper floor.
Hedwig's notification that she would visit her, therefore,
found the Countess at leisure and alone. She followed the
announcement almost immediately, and if she had shown cowardice
before, she showed none now. She disregarded the chair Olga
Loschek offered, and came to the point with a directness that
was like the King's.
"I have come," she said simply, "to find out what to do."
The Countess was as direct.
"I cannot tell you what to do, Highness. I can only tell you
what I would do."
"Very well." Hedwig showed a touch of impatience. This was
quibbling, and it annoyed her.
"I should go away, now, with the person I cared about."
"Where would you go?"
"The world is wide, Highness."
"Not wide enough to hide in, I am afraid."
"For myself," said the Countess, "the problem would not be
difficult. I should go to my place in the mountains. An old
priest, who knows me well, would perform the marriage. After
that they might find me if they liked. It would be too late."
Emergency had given Hedwig insight. She saw that the woman
before her, voicing dangerous doctrine, would protect herself
by letting the initiative come from her.
"This priest - he might be difficult."
"Not to a young couple, come to him, perhaps, in peasant
costume. They are glad to marry, these fathers. There is much
irregularity. I fancy," she added, still with her carefully
detached manner, "that a marriage could be easily arranged."
But, before long, she had dropped her pretense of aloofness,
and was taking the lead. Hedwig, weary with the struggle, and
now trembling with nervousness, put herself in her hands,
listening while she planned, agreed eagerly to everything.
Something of grim amusement came into Olga Loschek's face after
a time. By doing this thing she would lose everything. It
would be impossible to conceal her connivance. No one, knowing
Hedwig, would for a moment imagine the plan hers. Or Nikky's,
either, for that matter.
She, then, would lose everything, even Karl, who was already
lost to her. But - and her face grew set and her eyes hard -
she would let those plotters in their grisly catacombs do their
own filthy work. Her hands would be clean of that. Hence her
amusement that at this late day she, Olga Loschek, should be
saving her own soul.
So it was arranged, to the last detail. For it must be done at
once. Hedwig, a trifle terrified, would have postponed it a
day or so, but the Countess was insistent. Only she knew how
the very hours counted, had them numbered, indeed, and watched
them flying by with a sinking heart.
She made a few plans herself, in those moments when Hedwig
relapsed into rapturous if somewhat frightened dreams. She had
some money and her jewels. She would go to England, and there
live quietly until things settled down. Then, perhaps, she
would go some day to Karl, and with this madness for Hedwig
dead, of her marriage, perhaps - ! She planned no further.
If she gave a fleeting thought to the Palace, to the Crown
Prince and his impending fate, she dismissed it quickly. She
had no affection for Annunciata, and as to the boy, let them
look out for him. Let Mettlich guard his treasure, or lose it
to his peril. The passage under the gate was not of her
discovery or informing.
NIKKY AND HEDWIG
Nikky had gone back to his lodging, where his servant was
packing his things. For Nikky was now of His Majesty's
household, and must exchange his shabby old rooms for the cold
magnificence of the Palace.
Toto had climbed to the chair beside him, and was inspecting
his pockets, one by one. Toto was rather a problem, in the
morning. But then everything was a problem now. He decided to
leave the dog with the landlady, and to hope for a chance to
talk the authorities over. Nikky himself considered that a
small boy without a dog was as incomplete as, for instance, a
buttonhole without a button.
He was very downhearted. To the Crown Prince, each day, he
gave the best that was in him, played and rode, invented
delightful nonsense to bring the boy's quick laughter, carried
pocketfuls of bones, to the secret revolt of his soldierly
soul, was boyish and tender, frivolous or thoughtful, as the
occasion seemed to warrant.
And always he was watchful, his revolver always ready and in
touch, his eyes keen, his body, even when it seemed most
relaxed, always tense to spring. For Nikky knew the temper of
the people, knew it as did Mathilde gossiping in the market,
and even better; knew that a crisis was approaching, and that
on this small boy in his charge hung that crisis.
The guard at the Palace had been trebled, but even in that lay
"Too many strange faces," the Chancellor had said to him,
shaking his head. "Too many servants in livery, and flunkies
whom no one knows. How can we prevent men, in such livery,
from impersonating our own agents? One, two, a half-dozen,
they could gain access to the Palace, could commit a mischief
under our very eyes."
So Nikky trusted in his own right arm and in nothing else. At
night the Palace guard was smaller, and could be watched.
There were no servants about to complicate the situation. But
in the daytime, and especially now with the procession of
milliners and dressmakers, messengers and dealers, it was more
difficult. Nikky watched these people, as he happened on them,
with suspicion and hatred. Hatred not only of what they might
be, but hatred of what they were, of the thing they typified,
Hedwig's approaching marriage.
The very size of the Palace, its unused rooms, its long and
rambling corridors, its rambling wings and ancient turrets, was
against its safety.
Since the demonstration against Karl, the riding-school hour
had been given up. There were no drives in the park. The
illness of the King furnished sufficient excuse, but the truth
was that the royal family was practically besieged; by it knew
not what. Two police agents had been found dead the morning
after Karl's departure, on the outskirts of the city, lying
together in a freshly ploughed field. They bore marks of
struggle, and each had been stabbed through the veins of the
neck, as though they had been first subdued and then
Nikky, summoned to the Chancellor's house that morning, had
been told the facts, and had stood, rather still and tense,
while Mettlich recounted them.
"Our very precautions are our danger," said the Chancellor.
"And the King - " He stopped and sat, tapping his fingers on
the arm of his chair.
"And the King, sir?"
"Almost at the end. A day or two."
On that day came fresh news, alarming enough. More copies of
the seditious paper were in circulation in the city and the
surrounding country, passing from hand to hand. The town was
searched for the press which had printed them, but it was not
located. Which was not surprising, since it had been lowered
through a trap into a sub-cellar of the house on the Road of
the Good Children, and the trapdoor covered with rubbish.
Karl, with Hedwig in his thoughts, had returned to mobilize his
army not far from the border for the spring maneuvers, and at a
meeting of the King's Council the matter of a mobilization in
Livonia was seriously considered.
Fat Friese favored it, and made an impassioned speech, with
sweat thick on his heavy face.
"I am not cowardly," he finished. "I fear nothing for myself
or for those belonging to me. But the duty of this Council is
to preserve the throne for the Crown Prince, at any cost. And,
if we cannot trust the army, in what can we trust?"
"In God," said the Chancellor grimly.
In the end nothing was done. Mobilization might precipitate
the crisis, and there was always the fear that the army, in
parts, was itself disloyal.
It was Marschall, always nervous and now pallid with terror,
who suggested abandoning the marriage between Hedwig and Karl.
"Until this matter came up," he said, avoiding Mettlich's eyes,
"there was danger, but of a small party only, the revolutionary
one. One which, by increased effort on the part of the secret
police, might have been suppressed. It is this new measure
which is fatal. The people detest it. They cannot forget, if
we can, the many scores of hatred we still owe to Karnia. We
have, by our own act, alienated the better class of citizens.
Why not abandon this marriage, which, gentlemen, I believe will
be fatal. It has not yet been announced. We may still
withdraw with honor."
He looked around the table with anxious, haunted eyes, opened
wide so that the pupils appeared small and staring in their
setting of blood-shot white. The Chancellor glanced around,
"It is not always easy to let the people of a country know what
is good for them and for it. To retreat now is to show our
weakness, to make an enemy again of King Karl, and to gain us
nothing, not even safety. As well abdicate, and turn the
country over to the Terrorists! And, in this crisis, let me
remind you of something you persistently forget. Whatever the
views of the solid citizens may be as to this marriage, - and
once it is effected, they will accept it without doubt, - the
Crown Prince is now and will remain the idol of the country.
It is on his popularity we must depend. We must capitalize it.
Mobs are sentimental. Whatever the Terrorists may think, this
I know: that when the bell announces His Majesty's death, when
Ferdinand William Otto steps out on the balcony, a small and
lonely child, they will rally to him. That figure, on the
balcony, will be more potent than a thousand demagogues,
haranguing in the public streets."
The Council broke up in confusion. Nothing had been done, or
would be done. Mettlich of the Iron Hand had held them, would
continue to hold them. The King, meanwhile, lay dying, Doctor
Wiederman in constant attendance, other physicians coming and
going. His apartments were silent. Rugs covered the
corridors, that no footfall disturb his quiet hours. The
nursing Sisters attended him, one by his bedside, one always on
her knees at the Prie-dieu in the small room beyond. He wanted
little - now and then a sip of water, the cooled juice of
Injections of stimulants, given by Doctor Wiederman himself,
had scarred his old arms with purplish marks, and were absorbed
more and more slowly as the hours went on.
He rarely slept, but lay inert and not unhappy. Now and then
one of his gentlemen, given permission, tiptoed into the room,
and stood looking down at his royal master. Annunciata came,
and was at last stricken by conscience to a prayer at his
bedside. On one of her last visits that was. She got up to
find his eyes fixed on her.
"Father," she began.
He made no motion.
"Father, can you hear me?"
"I - I have been a bad daughter to you. I am sorry. It is
late now to tell you, but I am sorry. Can I do anything?"
"Otto," he said, with difficulty.
"You want to see him?
She knew what he meant by that. He would have the boy remember
him as he had seen him last.
"You are anxious about him?"
"Very - anxious."
"Listen, father," she said, stooping over him. "I have been
hard and cold. Perhaps you will grant that I have had two
reasons for it. But I am going to do better. I will take care
of him and I will do all I can to make him happy. I promise."
Perhaps it was relief. Perhaps even then the thought of
Annunciata's tardy and certain-to-be bungling efforts to make
Ferdinand William Otto happy amused him. He smiled faintly.
Nikky, watching his rooms being dismantled, rescuing an old
pipe now and then, or a pair of shabby but beloved boots, -
Nikky, whistling to keep up his courage, received a note from
Hedwig late that afternoon. It was very brief:
To-night at nine o'clock I shall go to the roof beyond
Hubert's old rooms, for air.
Nikky, who in all his incurious young life had never thought of
the roof of the Palace, save as a necessary shelter from the
weather, a thing of tiles and gutters, vastly large, looked
"The roof!" he said, surveying the note. And fell to thinking,
such a mixture of rapture and despair as only twenty-three, and
hopeless, can know.
Somehow or other he got through the intervening hours, and
before nine he was on his way. He had the run of the Palace,
of course. No one noticed him as he made his way toward the
empty suite which so recently had housed its royal visitor.
Annunciata's anxiety had kept the doors of the suite unlocked.
Knowing nothing, but fearing everything, she slept with the key
to the turret door under her pillow, and an ear opened for
In the faint moonlight poor Hubert's rooms, with their
refurbished furnishings covered with white linen, looked cold
and almost terrifying. A long window was open, and the velvet
curtain swayed as though it shielded some dismal figure. But,
when he had crossed the room and drawn the curtain aside, it
was to see a bit of fairyland, the roof moonlit and transformed
by growing things into a garden. There was, too, the fairy.
Hedwig, in a soft white wrap over her dinner dress, was at the
balustrade. The moon, which had robbed the flowers of their
colors and made them ghosts of blossoms, had turned Hedwig into
a pale, white fairy with extremely frightened eyes. A very
dignified fairy, too, although her heart thumped disgracefully.
Having taken a most brazen step forward, she was now for taking
two panicky ones back.
Therefore she pretended not to hear Nikky behind her, and was
completely engrossed in the city lights.
So Hedwig intended to be remote, and Nikky meant to be firm and
very, very loyal. Which shows how young and inexperienced they
were. Because any one who knows even the beginnings of love
knows that its victims suffer from an atrophy of both reason
and conscience, and a hypertrophy of the heart.
Whatever Nikky had intended - of obeying his promise to the
letter, of putting his country before love, and love out of his
life - failed him instantly. The Nikky, ardent-eyed and
tender-armed, who crossed the roof and took her almost fiercely
in his arms, was all lover - and twenty-three.
"Sweetheart!" he said. "Sweetest heart!"
When, having kissed her, he drew back a trifle for the sheer
joy of again catching her to him, it was Hedwig who held out
her arms to him.
"I couldn't bear it," she said simply. "I love you. I had to
see you again. Just once."
If he had not entirely lost his head before, he lost it then.
He stopped thinking, was content for a time that her arms were
about his neck, and his arms about her, holding her close.
They were tense, those arms of his, as though he would defy the
world to take her away.
But, although he had stopped thinking, Hedwig had not. It is,
at such times, always the woman who thinks. Hedwig, plotting
against his honor and for his happiness and hers, was already,
with her head on his breast, planning the attack. And, having
a strategic position, she fired her first gun from there.
"Never let me go, Nikky," she whispered. "Hold me, always."
"Always!" said Nikky, valiantly and absurdly.
"Like this," said Nikky, who was, like most lovers, not
particularly original. He tightened his strong arms about her.
"They are planning such terrible things." Shell number two,
and high explosive. "You won't let them take me from you, will
"God!" said poor Nikky, and kissed her hair. "If we could only
be like this always! Your arms, Hedwig, - your sweet arms!" He
kissed her arms.
Gun number three now: "Tell me how much you love me."
"I - there are no words, darling. And I couldn't live long
enough to tell you, if there were." Not bad that, for
"More than anybody else?"
He shook her a trifle, in his arms. "How can you?" he demanded
huskily. "More than anything in the world. More than life, or
anything life can bring. More, God help me, than my country."
But his own words brought him up short. He released her, very
gently, and drew back a step.
"You heard that?" he demanded. "And I mean it. It's
incredible, Hedwig, but it is true."
"I want you to mean it," Hedwig replied, moving close to him,
so that her soft draperies brushed him; the very scent of the
faint perfume she used was in the air he breathed. "I want you
to, because Nikky, you are going to take me away, aren't you?"
Then, because she dared not give him time to think, she made
her plea, - rapid, girlish, rather incoherent, but
understandable enough. They would go away together and be
married. She had it all planned and some of it arranged. And
then they would hide somewhere, and - "And always be together,"
she finished, tremulous with anxiety.
And Nikky? His pulses still beating at her nearness, his eyes
on her upturned, despairing young face, turned to him for hope
and comfort, what could he do? He took her in his arms again
and soothed her, while she cried her heart out against his
tunic. He said he would do anything to keep her from
unhappiness, and that he would die before he let her go to
Karl's arms. But if he had stopped thinking before, he was
thinking hard enough then.
"To-night?" said Hedwig, raising a tear-stained face. "It is
early. If we wait something will happen. I know it. They are
so powerful, they can do anything."
After all, Nikky is poor stuff to try to make a hero of. He
was so human, and so loving. And he was very, very young,
which may perhaps be his excuse. As well confess his weakness
and his temptation. He was tempted. Almost he felt he could
not let her go, could not loosen his hold of her. Almost - not
He put her away from him at last, after he had kissed her
eyelids and her forehead, which was by way of renunciation.
And then he folded his arms, which were treacherous and might
betray him. After that, not daring to look at her, but with
his eyes fixed on the irregular sky-line of the city roofs, he
told her many things, of his promise to the King, of the
danger, imminent now and very real, of his word of honor not to
make love to her, which he had broken.
Hedwig listened, growing cold and still, and drawing away a
little. She was suffering too much to be just. All she could
see was that, for a matter of honor, and that debatable, she
was to be sacrificed. This danger that all talked of - she had
heard that for a dozen years, and nothing had come of it.
Nothing, that is, but her own sacrifice.
She listened, even assented, as he pleaded against his own
heart, treacherous arms still folded. And if she saw his arms
and not his eyes, it was because she did not look up.
Halfway through his eager speech, however, she drew her light
wrap about her and turned away. Nikky could not believe that
she was going like that, without a word. But when she had
disappeared through the window, he knew, and followed her. He
caught her in Hubert's room, and drew her savagely into his
But it was a passive, quiescent, and trembling Hedwig who
submitted, and then, freeing herself, went out through the door
into the lights of the corridor. Nikky flung himself, face
down, on a shrouded couch and lay there, his face buried in his
Olga Loschek's last hope was gone.
THE DAY OF THE CARNIVAL
On the day of the Carnival, which was the last day before the
beginning of Lent, Prince Ferdinand William Otto wakened early.
The Palace still slept, and only the street-sweepers were about
the streets. Prince Ferdinand William Otto sat up in bed and
yawned. This was a special day, he knew, but at first he was
too drowsy to remember.
Then he knew - the Carnival! A delightful day, with the Place
full of people in strange costumes - peasants, imps, jesters,
who cut capers on the grass in the Park, little girls in
procession, wearing costumes of fairies with gauze wings,
students who paraded and blew noisy horns, even horses
decorated, and now and then a dog dressed as a dancer or a
He would have enjoyed dressing Toto in something or other. He
decided to mention it to Nikky, and with a child's faith he
felt that Nikky would, so to speak, come up to the scratch.
He yawned again, and began to feel hungry. He decided to get
up and take his own bath. There was nothing like getting a
good start for a gala day. And, since with the Crown Prince to
decide was to do, which is not always a royal trait, he took
his own bath, being very particular about his ears, and not at
all particular about the rest of him. Then, no Oskar having
yet appeared with fresh garments he ducked back into bed again,
quite bare as to his small body, and snuggled down in the
Lying there, he planned the day. There were to be no lessons
except fencing, which could hardly be called a lesson at all,
and as he now knew the "Gettysburg Address," he meant to ask
permission to recite it to his grandfather. To be quite sure
of it, he repeated it to himself as he lay there: -
"'Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on
this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and
dedicated to the proposition that all men are created
"Free and equal," he said to himself. That rather puzzled him.
Of course people were free, but they did not seem to be equal.
In the summer, at the summer palace, he was only allowed to see
a few children, because the others were what his Aunt
Annunciata called "bourgeois." And there was in his mind also
something Miss Braithwaite had said, after his escapade with
the American boy.
"If you must have some child to play with," she had said
severely, "you could at least choose some one approximately
"But he is my equal," he had protested from the outraged depths
of his small democratic heart.
"In birth," explained Miss Braithwaite.
"His father has a fine business," he had said, still rather
indignant. "It makes a great deal of money. Not everybody can
build a scenic railway and get it going right. Bobby said so."
Miss Braithwaite had been silent and obviously unconvinced.
Yet this Mr. Lincoln, the American, had certainly said that all
men were free and equal. It was very puzzling.
But, as the morning advanced, as, clothed and fed, the Crown
Prince faced the new day, he began to feel a restraint in the
air. People came and went, his grandfather's Equerry, the
Chancellor, the Lord Chamberlain, other gentlemen, connected
with the vast and intricate machinery of the Court, and even
Hedwig, in a black frock, all these people came, and talked
together, and eyed him when he was not looking. When they left
they all bowed rather more than usual, except Hedwig, who
kissed him, much to his secret annoyance.
Every one looked grave, and spoke in a low tone. Also there
was something wrong with Nikky, who appeared not only grave,
but rather stern and white. Considering that it was the last
day before Lent, and Carnival time, Prince Ferdinand William
Otto felt vaguely defrauded, rather like the time he had seen
"The Flying Dutchman," which had turned out to be only a
make-believe ship and did not fly at all. To add to the
complications, Miss Braithwaite had a headache.
Nikky Larisch had arrived just as Hedwig departed, and even the
Crown Prince had recognized something wrong. Nikky had stopped
just inside the doorway, with his eyes rather desperately and
hungrily on Hedwig, and Hedwig, who should have been scolded,
according to Prince Otto, had passed him with the haughtiest
sort of nod.
The Crown Prince witnessed the nod with wonder and alarm.
"We are all rather worried," he explained afterward to Nikky,
to soothe his wounded pride. "My grandfather is not so well
to-day. Hedwig is very unhappy."
"Yes," said Nikky miserably, "she does look unhappy."
"Now, when are we going out?" briskly demanded Prince Ferdinand
William Otto. "I can hardly wait. I've seen the funniest
people already - and dogs. Nikky, I wonder if you could dress
Toto, and let me see him somewhere."
"Out! You do not want to go out in that crowd, do you?"
"Why - am I not to go?"
His voice was suddenly quite shaky. He was, in a way, so
inured to disappointments that he recognized the very tones in
which they were usually announced. So he eyed Nikky with a
searching glance, and saw there the thing he feared.
"Well," he said resignedly, " I suppose I can see something
from the windows. Only - I should like to have a really good
time occasionally." He was determined not to cry. "But there
are usually a lot of people in the Place."
Then, remembering that his grandfather was very ill, he tried
to forget his disappointment in a gift for him. Not burnt wood
this time, but the drawing of a gun, which he explained as he
worked, that he had invented. He drew behind the gun a sort of
trestle, with little cars, not unlike the Scenic Railway, on
which ammunition was delivered into the breech by something
strongly resembling a coal-chute.
There was, after all, little to see from the windows. That
part of the Place near the Palace remained empty and quiet, by
order of the King's physicians. And although it was Carnival,
and the streets were thronged with people, there was little of
Carnival in the air. The city waited.
Some loyal subjects waited and grieved that the King lay dying.
For, although the Palace had carefully repressed his condition,
such things leak out, and there was the empty and silent Place
to bear witness.
Others waited, too, but not in sorrow. And a certain
percentage, the young and light-hearted, strutted the streets
in fantastic costume, blew horns and threw confetti and fresh
flowers, still dewy from the mountain slopes. The Scenic
Railway was crowded with merry-makers, and long lines of people
stood waiting their turn at the ticket-booth, where a surly old
veteran, pinched with sleepless nights, sold them tickets and
ignored their badinage. Family parties, carrying baskets and
wheeling babies in perambulators, took possession of the Park
and littered it with paper bags. And among them, committing
horrible crimes, dispatching whole families with a wooden gun
from behind near-by trees and taking innumerable prisoners,
went a small pirate in a black mask and a sash of scarlet
ribbon, from which hung various deadly weapons, including a
bread-knife, a meat-cleaver, and a hatchet.
Attempts to make Tucker wear a mask having proved abortive, he
was attired in a pirate flag of black, worn as a blanket, and
having on it, in white muslin, what purported to be a skull and
cross-bones but which looked like the word "ox" with the "O"
superimposed over the "X."
Prince Ferdinand William Otto stood at his window and looked
out. Something of resentment showed itself in the lines of his
figure. There was, indeed, rebellion in his heart. This was a
real day, a day of days, and no one seemed to care that he was
missing it. Miss Braithwaite looked drawn about the eyes, and
considered carnivals rather common, and certainly silly. And
Nikky looked drawn about the mouth, and did not care to play.
Rebellion was dawning in the soul of the Crown Prince, not the
impassive revolt of the "Flying Dutchman" and things which only
pretended to be, like the imitation ship and the women who were
not really spinning. The same rebellion, indeed, which had set
old Adelbert against the King and turned him traitor, a
rebellion against needless disappointment, a protest for
Old Adelbert, forbidden to march in his new uniform, the Crown
Prince, forbidden his liberty and shut in a gloomy palace, were
blood-brothers in revolt.
Not that Prince Ferdinand William Otto knew he was in revolt.
At first it consisted only of a consideration of his promise to
the Chancellor. But while there had been an understanding,
there had been no actual promise, had there?
Late in the morning Nikky took him to the roof. "We can't go
out, old man," Nikky said to him, rather startled to discover
the unhappiness in the boy's face, "but I've found a place
where we can see more than we can here. Suppose we try it."
"Why can't we go out? I've always gone before."
"Well," Nikky temporized, "they've made a rule. They make a
good many rules, you know. But they said nothing about the
"The roof. The thing that covers us and keeps out the weather.
The roof, Highness." Nikky alternated between formality and
the other extreme with the boy.
"It slants, doesn't it?" observed his Highness doubtfully.
"Part of it is quite flat. We can take a ball up there, and
get some exercise while we're about it."
As a matter of fact, Nikky was not altogether unselfish. He
would visit the roof again, where for terrible, wonderful
moments he had held Hedwig in his arms. On a pilgrimage,
indeed, like that of the Crown Prince to Etzel, Nikky would
visit his shrine.
So they went to the roof. They went through silent corridors,
past quiet rooms where the suite waited and spoke in whispers,
past the very door of the chamber where the Council sat in
session, and where reports were coming in, hour by hour, as to
the condition of things outside. Past the apartment of the
Archduchess Annunciata, where Hilda, released from lessons, was
trying the effect of jet earrings against her white skin, and
the Archduchess herself was sitting by her fire, and
contemplating the necessity for flight. In her closet was a
small bag, already packed in case of necessity. Indeed, more
persons than the Archduchess Annunciata had so prepared. Miss
Braithwaite, for instance, had spent a part of the night over a
traveling-case containing a small boy's outfit, and had wept as
she worked, which was the reason for her headache.
The roof proved quite wonderful. One could see the streets
crowded with people, could hear the soft blare of distant
"The Scenic Railway is in that direction," observed the Crown
Prince, leaning on the balustrade. "If there were no buildings
we could see it."
"Right here," Nikky was saying to himself. "At this very spot.
She held out her arms, and I- "
"It looks very interesting," said Prince Ferdinand William
Otto. "Of course we can't see the costumes, but it is better
"I kissed her," Nikky was thinking, his heart swelling under
his very best tunic. "Her head was on my breast, and I kissed
her. Last of. all, I kissed her eyes - her lovely eyes."
"If I fell off here," observed the Crown Prince in a meditative
voice, " I would be smashed to a jelly, like the child at the
"But now she hates me," said Nikky's heart, and dropped about
the distance of three buttons. "She hates me. I saw it in her
eyes this morning. God!"
"We might as well play ball now."
Prince Ferdinand William Otto turned away from the parapet with
a sigh. This strange quiet that filled the Palace seemed to
have attacked Nikky too. Otto hated quiet.
They played ball, and the Crown Prince took a lesson in curves.
But on his third attempt, he described such a compound- curve
that the ball disappeared over an adjacent part of the roof,
and although Nikky did some blood-curdling climbing along
gutters, it could not be found.
It was then that the Majordomo, always a marvelous figure in
crimson and gold, and never seen without white gloves - the
Majordomo bowed in a window, and observed that if His Royal
Highness pleased, His Royal Highness's luncheon was served.
In the shrouded room inside the windows, however, His Royal
Highness paused and looked around.
"I've been here before," he observed. "These were my father's
rooms. My mother lived here, too. When I am older, perhaps I
can have them. It would be convenient on account of my
practicing curves on the roof. But I should need a number of
He was rather silent on his way back to the schoolroom. But
once he looked up rather wistfully at Nikky.
"If they were living," he said, "I am pretty sure they would
take me out to-day."
Olga Loschek had found the day one of terror. Annunciata had
demanded her attendance all morning, had weakened strangely and
demanded fretfully to be comforted.
"I have been a bad daughter," she would say. "It was my
nature. I was warped and soured by wretchedness."
"But you have not been a bad daughter," the Countess would
protest, for the thousandth time. "You have done your duty
faithfully. You have stayed here when many another would have
been traveling on the Riviera, or - "
"It was no sacrifice," said Annunciata, in her peevish voice.
"I loathe traveling. And now I am being made to suffer for all
I have done. He will die, and the rest of us - what will
happen to us?" She shivered.
The Countess would take the cue, would enlarge on the
precautions for safety, on the uselessness of fear, on the
popularity of the Crown Prince. And Annunciata, for a time at
least, would relax. In her new remorse she made frequent
visits to the sickroom, passing, a long, thin figure, clad in
black, through lines of bowing gentlemen, to stand by the bed
and wring her hands. But the old King did not even know she
The failure of her plan as to Nikky and Hedwig was known to the
Countess the night before. Hedwig had sent for her and faced
her in her boudoir, very white and calm.
"He refuses," she said. "There is nothing more to do."
"He has promised not to leave Otto."
Olga Loschek had been incredulous, at first. It was not
possible. Men in love did not do these things. It was not
possible, that, after all, she had failed. When she realized
it, she would have broken out in bitter protest, but Hedwig's
face warned her. "He is right, of course," Hedwig had said.
"You and I were wrong, Countess. There is nothing to do - or
And the Countess had taken her defeat quietly, with burning
eyes and a throat dry with excitement. "I am sorry, Highness,"
she said from the doorway. "I had only hoped to save you from
unhappiness. That is all. And, as you say, there is nothing
to be done." So she had gone away and faced the night, and the
day which was to follow.
The plot was arranged, to the smallest detail. The King,
living now only so long as it was decreed he should live;
would, in mid-afternoon, commence to sink. The entire Court
would be gathered in anterooms and salons near his apartments.
In his rooms the Crown Prince would be kept, awaiting the
summons to the throne-room, where, on the King's death, the
regency would be declared, and the Court would swear fealty to
the new King, Otto the Ninth. By arrangement with the captain
of the Palace guard, who was one of the Committee of Ten, the
sentries before the Crown Prince's door were to be of the
revolutionary party. Mettlich would undoubtedly be with the
King. Remained then to be reckoned with only the Prince's
personal servants, Miss Braithwaite, and Nikky Larisch.
The servants offered little difficulty. At that hour, four
o'clock, probably only the valet Oskar would be on duty, and
his station was at the end of a corridor, separated by two
doors from the schoolroom. It was planned that the two men who
were to secure the Crown Prince were to wear the Palace livery,
and to come with a message that the Crown Prince was to
accompany them. Then, instead of going to the wing where the
Court was gathered, they would go up to Hubert's rooms, and
from there to the roof and the secret passage.
Two obstacles were left for the Countess to cope with, and this
was her part of the work. She had already a plan for Miss
Braithwaite. But Nikky Larisch?
Over that problem, during the long night hours, Olga Loschek
worked. It would be possible to overcome Nikky, of course.
There would be four men, with the sentries, against him. But
that would mean struggle and an alarm. It was the plan to
achieve the abduction quietly, so quietly that for perhaps an
hour - they hoped for an hour - there would be no alarm. Some
time they must have, enough to make the long journey through
the underground passage. Otherwise the opening at the gate
would be closed, and the party caught like rats in a hole.
The necessity for planning served one purpose, at least. It
kept her from thinking. Possibly it saved her reason, for
there were times during that last night when Olga Loschek was
not far from madness. At dawn, long after Hedwig had forgotten
her unhappiness in sleep, the Countess went wearily to bed.
She had dismissed Minna hours before, and as she stood before
her mirror, loosening her heavy hair, she saw that all that was
of youth and loveliness in her had died in the night. A
determined, scornful, and hard-eyed woman, she went drearily to
During the early afternoon the Chancellor visited the Crown
Prince. Waiting and watching had made inroads on him, too, but
he assumed a sort of heavy jocularity for the boy's benefit.
"No lessons, eh?" he said. "Then there have been no paper
balls for the tutors' eyes, eh?"
"I never did that but once, sir," said Prince Ferdinand William
"So! Once only!"
"And I did that because he was always looking at Hedwig's
The Chancellor eyed the picture. "I should be the last to
condemn him for that," he said, and glanced at Nikky.
"We must get the lad out somewhere for some air," he observed.
"It is not good to keep him shut up like this." He turned to
the Crown Prince. "In a day or so," he said, "we shall all go
to the summer palace. You would like that, eh?"
"Will my grandfather be able to go?"
The Chancellor sighed. "Yes," he said, "I - he will go to the
country also. He has loved it very dearly."
He went, shortly after three o'clock. And, because he was
restless and uneasy, he made a round of the Palace, and of the
guards. Before he returned to his vigil outside the King's
bedroom, he stood for a moment by a window and looked out.
Evidently rumors of the King's condition had crept out, in
spite of their caution. The Place, kept free of murmurs by the
police, was filling slowly with people; people who took up
positions on benches, under the trees, and even sitting on the
curb of the street. An orderly and silent crowd it seemed, of
the better class. Here and there he saw police agents in plain
clothes, impassive but watchful, on the lookout for the first
cry of treason.
An hour or two, or three - three at the most and the fate of
the Palace would lie in the hands of that crowd. He could but
lead the boy to the balcony, and await the result.
THE PIRATE'S DEN
Miss Braithwaite was asleep on the couch in her sitting-room,
deeply asleep, so that when Prince Ferdinand William Otto
changed the cold cloth on her head, she did not even move. The
Countess Loschek had brought her some medicine.
"It cured her very quickly," said the Crown Prince, shuffling
the cards with clumsy fingers. He and Nikky were playing a
game in which matches represented money. The Crown Prince had
won nearly all of them and was quite pink with excitement.
"It's my deal, it? When she goes to sleep like that, she
nearly always wakens up much better. She's very sound asleep."
Nikky played absently, and lost the game. The Crown Prince
triumphantly scooped up the rest of the matches. "We've had
rather a nice day," he observed, "even if we didn't go out.
Shall we divide them again, and start all over?"
Nikky, however, proclaimed himself hopelessly beaten and a bad
loser. So the Crown Prince put away the cards, which belonged
to Miss Braithwaite, and with which she played solitaire in the
evenings. Then he lounged to the window, his hands in his
pockets. There was something on his mind which the
Chancellor's reference to Hedwig's picture had recalled.
Something he wished to say to Nikky, without looking at him.
So he clearer throat, and looked out the window, and said, very
"Hilda says that Hedwig is going to get married."
"So I hear, Highness."
"She doesn't seem to be very happy about it. She's crying,
most of the time."
It was Nikky's turn to clear his throat. "Marriage is a
serious matter," he said. "It is not to be gone into lightly."
"Once, when I asked you about marriage, you said marriage was
when two people loved each other, and wanted to be together the
rest of their lives."
"Well," hedged Nikky, "that is the idea, rather."
"I should think," said Prince Ferdinand William Otto, slightly
red, "that you would marry her yourself."
Nikky, being beyond speech for an instant and looking, had His
Royal Highness but seen him, very tragic and somewhat rigid,
the Crown Prince went on:
"She's a very nice girl," he said; "I think she would make a
There was something of reproach in his tone. He had
confidently planned that Nikky would marry Hedwig, and that
they could all live on forever in the Palace. But, the way
things were going, Nikky might marry anybody, and go away to
live, and he would lose him.
"Yes," said Nikky, in a strange voice, "she - I am sure she
would make a good wife."
At which Prince Ferdinand William Otto turned and looked at
him. "I wish you would marry her yourself," he said with his
nearest approach to impatience. "I think she'd be willing.
I'll ask her, if you want me to."
Half-past three, then, and Nikky trying to explain, within the
limits of the boy's understanding of life, his position.
Members of royal families, he said, looking far away, over the
child's head, had to do many things for the good of the
country. And marrying was one of them. Something of old
Mettlich's creed of prosperity for the land he gave, something
of his own hopelessness, too, without knowing it. He sat, bent
forward, his hands swung between his knees, and tried to
visualize, for Otto's understanding and his own heartache, the
results of such a marriage.
Some of it the boy grasped. A navy, ships, a railroad to the
sea - those he could understand. Treaties were beyond his
comprehension. And, with a child's singleness of idea, he
returned to the marriage.
"I'm sure she doesn't care about it," he said at last. "If I
were King I would not let her do it. And" - he sat very erect
and swung his short legs - "when I grow up, I shall fight for a
navy, if I want one, and I shall marry whoever I like."
At a quarter to four Olga Loschek was announced. She made the
curtsy inside the door that Palace ceremonial demanded and
inquired for the governess. Prince Ferdinand William Otto, who
had risen at her entrance, offered to see if she still slept,
"I think you are a very good doctor," he said, smiling, and
went out to Miss Braithwaite's sitting room.
It was then that Olga Loschek played the last card, and won.
She moved quickly to Nikky's side.
"I have a message for you," she said.
A light leaped into Nikky's eyes. "For me?"
"Do you know where my boudoir is?"
"I - yes, Countess."
"If you will go there at once and wait, some one will see you
there as soon as possible." She put her hand on his arm.
"Don't be foolish and proud," she said. "She is sorry about
last night, and she is very unhappy."
The light faded out of Nikky's eyes. She was unhappy and he
could do nothing. They had a way, in the Palace, of binding
one's hands and leaving one helpless. He could not even go to
"I cannot go, Countess," he said. "She must understand.
To-day, of all days - "
"You mean that you cannot leave the Crown Prince?" She
shrugged her shoulders. "You, too! Never have I seen so many
faint hearts, such rolling eyes, such shaking knees! And for
what! Because a few timid souls see a danger that does not
"I think it does exist," said Nikky obstinately.
"I am to take the word to her, then, that you will not come?"
"That I cannot."
"You are a very foolish boy," said the Countess, watching him.
"And since you are so fearful, I myself will remain here.
There are sentries at the doors, and a double guard everywhere.
What, in the name of all that is absurd, can possibly happen?"
That was when she won. For Nikky, who has never been, in all
this history, anything of a hero, and all of the romantic and
loving boy, - Nikky wavered and fell.
When Prince Ferdinand William Otto returned, it was with the
word that Miss Braithwaite still slept, and that she looked
very comfortable, Nikky was gone, and the Countess stood by a
window, holding to the sill to support her shaking body.
It was done. The boy was in her hands. There was left only to
deliver him to those who, even now, were on the way. Nikky was
safe. He would wait in her boudoir, and Hedwig would not come.
She had sent no message. She was, indeed, at that moment a
part of one of those melancholy family groups which, the world
over, in palace or peasant's hut, await the coming of death.
Prince Ferdinand William Otto chatted. He got out the
picture-frame for Hedwig, which was finished now, with the
exception of burning his initials in the lower left-hand
corner. After inquiring politely if the smell of burning would
annoy her, the Crown Prince drew a rather broken-backed "F," a
weak-kneed "W," and an irregular "O" in the corner and
proceeded to burn them in. He sat bent over the desk, the very
tip of his tongue protruding, and worked conscientiously and
carefully. Between each letter he burned a dot.
Suddenly, Olga Loschek became panic-stricken. She could not
stay, and see this thing out. Let them follow her and punish
her. She could not. She had done her part. The governess lay
in, a drugged sleep. A turn of the key, and the door to the
passage beyond which Oskar waited would be closed off. Let
follow what must, she would not see it.
The boy still bent over his work. She wandered about the room,
casually, as if examining the pictures on the wall. She
stopped, for a bitter moment, before Hedwig's photograph, and,
for a shaken one, before those of Prince Hubert and his wife.
Then she turned the key, and shut Oskar safely away.
"Highness," she said, "Lieutenant Larisch will be here in a
moment. Will you permit me to go?"
Otto was off his chair in an instant. "Certainly," he said,
his mind still on the "O" which he was shading.
Old habit was strong in the Countess. Although the boy's rank
was numbered by moments, although his life was possibly to be
counted by hours, she turned at the doorway and swept him a
curtsy. Then she went out, and closed the door behind her.
The two sentries stood outside. They were of the Terrorists.
She knew, and they knew she knew. But neither one made a sign.
They stared ahead, and Olga Loschek went out between them.
Now the psychology of the small boy is a curious thing. It is,
for one thing, retentive. Ideas become, given time,
obsessions. And obsessions are likely to lead to action.
The Crown Prince Ferdinand William Otto was only a small boy,
for all his title and dignity. And suddenly he felt lonely.
Left alone, he returned to his expectations for the day, and
compared them with the facts. He remembered other carnivals,
with his carriage moving through the streets, and people
showering him with fresh flowers. He rather glowed at the
memory. Then he recalled that the Chancellor had said he
needed fresh air.
Something occurred to him, something which combined fresh air
with action, yet kept to the letter of his promise - or was
there a promise? - not to leave the Palace.
The idea pleased him. It set him to smiling, and his bright
hair to quivering with excitement. It was nothing less than to
go up on the roof and find the ball. Nikky would be surprised,
having failed himself. He would have to be very careful,
having in mind the fate of that unlucky child at the Crystal
Palace. And he would have to hurry. Nikky would be sure to
He opened the door on to the great corridor, and stepped out,
saluting the sentries, as he always did.
"I'll be back in a moment," he informed them. He was always on
terms of great friendliness with the guard, and he knew these
men by sight. "Are you going to be stationed here now?" he
The two guards were at a loss. But one of them, who had a son
of his own, and hated the whole business, saluted and replied
that he knew not.
"I hope you are," said Ferdinand William Otto, and went on.
The sentries regarded one another. "Let him go!" said the one
who was a father.
The other one moved uneasily. "Our orders cover no such
contingency," he muttered. "And, besides, he will come back."
He bore a strong resemblance to the boy, who, in the
riding-school, had dusted the royal hearse. "I hope to God he
does not come back," he said stonily.
Five minutes to four.
The Crown Prince hurried. The corridors were almost empty.
Here and there he met servants, who stood stiff against the
wall until he had passed. On the marble staircase, leading up,
he met no one, nor on the upper floor. He was quite warm with
running and he paused in his father's suite to mop his face.
Then he opened a window and went out on the roof. It seemed
very large and empty now, and the afternoon sun, sinking low,
threw shadows across it.
Also, from the balustrade, it looked extremely far to the
Nevertheless, although his heart beat a trifle fast, he was
still determined. A climb which Nikky with his long legs had
achieved in a leap, took him up to a chimney. Below - it
seemed a long way below was the gutter. There was a very
considerable slant. If one sat down, like Nikky, and slid, and
did not slide over the edge, one should fetch up in the gutter.
He felt a trifle dizzy. But Nikky's theory was, that if one is
afraid to do a thing, better to do it and get over being
"I was terribly afraid of a bayonet attack," Nikky had
observed, "until I was in one. The next one I rather enjoyed!"
So the Crown Prince sat down on the sloping roof behind the
chimney, and gathered his legs under him for a slide.
Then he heard a door open, and footsteps. Very careful
footsteps. He was quite certain Nikky had followed him. But
there were cautious voices, too, and neither was Nikky's. It
occurred to Prince Ferdinand William Otto that a good many
people, certainly including Miss Braithwaite, would not approve
of either his situation or his position. Miss Braithwaite was
particularly particular about positions.
So he sat still beside the chimney, well shielded by the
evergreens in tubs, until the voices and the footsteps were
gone. Then he took all his courage in his hands, and slid.
Well for him that the ancient builders of the Palace had been
reckless with lead, that the gutter was both wide and deep.
Well for Nikky, too, waiting in the boudoir below and hard-
driven between love and anxiety.
The Crown Prince, unaccustomed to tiles, turned over halfway
down, and rolled. He brought up with a jerk in the gutter,
quite safe, but extremely frightened. And the horrid memory of
the Crystal Palace child filled his mind, to the exclusion of
everything else. He sat there for quite a few minutes. There
was no ball in sight, and the roof looked even steeper from
Being completely self-engrossed, therefore, he did not see that
the roof had another visitor. Had two visitors, as a matter of
fact. One of them wore a blanket with a white "O" over a white
"X" on it, and the other wore a mask, and considerable kitchen
cutlery fastened to his belt. They had come out of a small
door in the turret and were very much at ease. They leaned
over the parapet and admired the view. They strutted about the
flat roof, and sang, at least one of them sang a very strange
refrain, which was something about
"Fifteen men on a dead man's chest;
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum."
And then they climbed on one of the garden chairs and looked
over the expanse of the roof, which was when they saw Prince
Ferdinand William Otto, and gazed at him.
"Gee whiz!" said the larger pirate, through his mask. "What
are you doing there?"
The Crown Prince started, and stared. "I am sitting here,"
explained the Crown Prince, trying to look as though he usually
sat in lead gutters. "I am looking for a ball."
"You're looking for a fall, I guess," observed the pirate.
"You don't remember me, kid, do you?"
"I can't see your face, but I know your voice." His voice
trembled with excitement.
"Lemme give you a hand," said the pirate, whipping off his
mask. "You make me nervous, sitting there. You've got a
nerve, you have."
The Crown Prince looked gratified. "I don't need any
assistance, thank you," he said. "Perhaps, now I'm here, I'd
better look for the ball."
"I wouldn't bother about the old ball," said the pirate, rather
nervously for an old sea-dog. "Yon better get back to a safe
place. Say, what made you pretend that our Railway made you
Prince Ferdinand William Otto climbed up the tiles, trying to
look as though tiles were his native habitat. The pirates both
regarded him with admiration, as he dropped beside them.
"How did you happen to come here?" asked the Crown Prince.
"Did you lose your aeroplane up here?"
"We came on business," said the pirate importantly. "Two of
the enemy entered our cave. We were guarding it from the
underbrush, and saw them go in. We trailed them. They must
"Really - die?"
"Of course. Death to those who defy us."
"Death to those who defy us!" repeated the Crown Prince,
enjoying himself hugely, and quite ready for bloodshed.
"Look here, Dick Deadeye," said the larger pirate to the
smaller, who stood gravely at attention, "I think he belongs to
our crew. What say, old pal?"
Dick Deadeye wagged his tail.
Some two minutes later, the Crown Prince of Livonia, having
sworn the pirate oath of no quarter, except to women and
children, was on his way to the pirate cave.
He was not running away. He was not disobedient. He was
breaking no promises. Because, from the moment he saw the two
confederates, and particularly from the moment he swore the
delightful oath, his past was wiped away. There was, in his
consciousness, no Palace, no grandfather, no Miss Braithwaite,
even no Nikky. There was only a boy and a dog, and a pirate
den awaiting him.
THE PAPER CROWN
Strange that the old Palace roof should, in close succession;
have seen Nikky forgetting his promise to the Chancellor, and
Otto forgetting that he was not to run away. Strange places,
roofs, abiding places, since long ago, of witches.
"How'd you happen to be in that gutter?" Bobby demanded, as
they started down the staircase in the wall. "Watch out, son,
it's pretty steep."
"I was getting a ball."
"Is this your house?"
"Well, I live here," temporized Prince Ferdinand William Otto.
A terrible thought came to him. Suppose this American boy, who
detested kings and princes, should learn who he was!
"It looks like a big place. Is it a barracks?"
"No." He hesitated. "But there are a good many soldiers here.
I - I never saw these steps before."
"I should think not," boasted Bobby. "I discovered them. I
guess nobody else in the world knows about them. I put up a
flag at the bottom and took possession. They're mine."
"Really!" said Prince Ferdinand William Otto, quite delighted.
He would never have thought of such a thing.
A door of iron bars at the foot of the long flight of steps -
there were four of them - stood open. Here daylight, which had
been growing fainter, entirely ceased. And here Bobby, having
replaced his mask, placed an air-rifle over his shoulder, and
lighted a candle and held it out to the Crown Prince.
"You can carry it," he said. "Only don't let it drip on you.
You'll spoil your clothes." There was a faintly scornful note
in his voice, and Ferdinand William Otto was quick to hear it.
"I don't care at all about my clothes," he protested. And to
prove it he deliberately tilted the candle and let a thin
stream of paraffin run down his short jacket.
"You're a pretty good sport," Bobby observed. And from that
time on he addressed His Royal Highness as "old sport."
"Walk faster, old sport," he would say. "That candle's pretty
short, and we've got a long way to go." Or - "Say, old sport,
I'll make you a mask like this, if you like. I made this one."
When they reached the old dungeon the candle was about done.
There was only time to fashion another black mask out of a
piece of cloth that bore a strange resemblance to a black
waistcoat. The Crown Prince donned this with a wildly beating
heart. Never in all his life had he been so excited. Even
Dick Deadeye was interested, and gave up his scenting of the
strange footsteps that he had followed through the passage, to
watch the proceedings.
"We can get another candle, and come back and cook something,"
said the senior pirate, tying the mask on with Pieces of brown
string. "It gets pretty smoky, but I can cook, you'd better
So this wonderful boy could cook, also! The Crown Prince had
never met any one with so many varied attainments. He gazed
through the eyeholes, which were rather too far apart, in rapt
"As you haven't got a belt," Bobby said generously, "I'll give
you the rifle. Ever hold a gun?"
"Oh, yes," said. the Crown Prince. He did not explain that he
had been taught to shoot on the rifle-range of his own
regiment, and had won quite a number of medals. He possessed,
indeed, quite a number of small but very perfect guns.
With the last gasp of the candle, the children prepared to
depart. The senior pirate had already forgotten the two men he
had trailed through the passage, and was eager to get outdoors.
"Ready!" he said. "Now, remember, old sport, we are pirates.
No quarter, except to women and children. Shoot every man."
"Even if he is unarmed?" inquired the Crown Prince, who had
also studied strategy and tactics, and felt that an unarmed man
should be taken prisoner.
"Sure. We don't really shoot them, silly. Now. Get in step.
"'Fifteen men on a dead man's chest
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.'"
They marched up the steps and out through the opening at the
top. If there were any who watched, outside the encircling
growth of evergreens, they were not on the lookout for two
small boys and a dog. And, as became pirates, the children
made a stealthy exit.
Then began, for the Crown Prince, such a day of joy as he had
never known before. Even the Land of Delight faded before this
new bliss of stalking from tree to tree, of killing
unsuspecting citizens who sat on rugs on the ground and ate
sausages and little cakes. Here and there, where a party had
moved on, they salvaged a bit of food - the heel of a loaf, one
of the small country apples. Shades of the Court Physicians,
under whose direction the Crown Prince was daily fed a
carefully balanced ration!
When they were weary, they stretched out on the ground, and the
Crown Prince, whose bed was nightly dried with a warming-pan
for fear of dampness, wallowed blissfully on earth still soft
with the melting frosts of the winter. He grew muddy and
dirty. He had had no hat, of course, and his bright hair hung
over his forehead in moist strands. Now and then he drew a
long breath of sheer happiness.
Around them circled the gayety of the Carnival, bands of
students in white, with the tall peaked caps of Pierrots. Here
and there was a scarlet figure, a devil with horns, who watched
the crowd warily. A dog, with the tulle petticoats of a dancer
tied around it and a great bow on its neck, made friends with
Dick Deadeye, alias Tucker, and joined the group.
But, as dusk descended, the crowd gradually dispersed, some to
supper, but some to gather in the Place and in the streets
around the Palace. For the rumor that the King was dying would
At last the senior pirate consulted a large nickel watch.
"Gee! it's almost supper time," he said.
Prince Ferdinand William Otto consulted his own watch, the one
with the inscription: "To Ferdinand William Otto, from his
grandfather, on the occasion of his taking his first
"Why can't you come home to supper with me?" asked the senior
pirate. "Would your folks kick up a row?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Would your family object?"
"There is only one person who would mind," reflected the Crown
Prince, aloud, "and she will be angry anyhow. I - do you think
your mother will be willing? "
"Willing? Sure she will! My governess - but I'll fix her.
She's a German, and they're always cranky. Anyhow, it's my
birthday. I'm always allowed a guest on birthdays."
So home together, gayly chatting, went the two children, along
the cobble-paved streets of the ancient town, past old churches
that had been sacked and pillaged by the very ancestors of one
of them, taking short cuts through narrow passages that twisted
and wormed their way between, and sometimes beneath,
century-old stone houses; across the flower-market, where faint
odors of dying violets and crushed lilies-of-the-valley still
clung to the bare wooden booths; and so, finally, to the door
of a tall building where, from the concierge's room beside the
entrance, came a reek of stewing garlic.
Neither of the children had noticed the unwonted silence of the
streets, which had, almost suddenly, succeeded the noise of the
Carnival. What few passers-by they had seen had been hurrying
in the direction of the Palace. Twice they had passed
soldiers, with lanterns, and once one had stopped and flashed a
light on them.
"Well, old sport!" said Bobby in English, "anything you can do
The soldier had passed on, muttering at the insolence of
American children. The two youngsters laughed consumedly at
the witticism. They were very happy, the lonely little
American boy and the lonely little Prince - happy from sheer
gregariousness, from the satisfaction of that strongest of
human inclinations, next to love - the social instinct.
The concierge was out. His niece admitted them, and went back
to her interrupted cooking. The children hurried up the
winding stone staircase, with its iron rail and its gas
lantern, to the second floor.
In the sitting-room, the sour-faced governess was darning a
hole in a small stocking. She was as close as possible to the
green-tile stove, and she was looking very unpleasant; for the
egg-shaped darner only slipped through the hole, which was a
large one. With an irritable gesture she took off her slipper,
and, putting one coarse-stockinged foot on the fender,
proceeded to darn by putting the slipper into the stocking and
working over it.
Things looked unpropitious. The Crown Prince ducked behind
The Fraulein looked at the clock.
"You are fifteen minutes late," she snapped, and bit the
darning thread - not with rage, but because she had forgotten
"I'm sorry, but you see - "
"Whom have you there?"
The Prince cowered. She looked quite like his grandfather when
his tutor's reports had been unfavorable.
"A friend of mine," said Bobby, not a whit daunted.
The governess put down the stocking and rose. In so doing, she
caught her first real glimpse of Ferdinand William Otto, and
she staggered back.
"Holy Saints!" she said, and went white. Then she stared at
the boy, and her color came back. "For a moment," she muttered
" - but no. He is not so tall, nor has he the manner. Yes, he
is much smaller!"
Which proves that, whether it wears it or not, royalty is
always measured to the top of a crown.
In the next room Bobby's mother was arranging candles on a
birthday cake in the center of the table. Pepy had iced the
cake herself, and had forgotten one of the "b's" in "Bobby" so
that the cake really read: "Boby - XII."
However, it looked delicious, and inside had been baked a tiny
black china doll and a new American penny, with Abraham
Lincoln's head on it. The penny was for good fortune, but the
doll was a joke of Pepy's, Bobby being aggressively masculine.
Bobby, having passed the outpost, carried the rest of the
situation by assault. He rushed into the dining-room and
kissed his mother, with one eye on the cake.
"Mother, here's company to supper! Oh, look at the cake!
B-O-B-Y'! Mother! That's awful!"
Mrs. Thorpe looked at the cake. "Poor Pepy," she said.
"Suppose she had made it 'Booby'?" Then she saw Ferdinand
William Otto, and went over, somewhat puzzled, with her hand
out. "I am very glad Bobby brought you," she said. "He has so
few little friends - "
Then she stopped, for the Prince had brought his heels together
sharply, and, bending over her hand, had kissed it, exactly as
he kissed his Aunt Annunciata's when he went to have tea with
her. Mrs. Thorpe was fairly startled, not at the kiss, but at
the grace with which the tribute was rendered.
Then she looked down, and it restored her composure to find
that Ferdinand William Otto, too, had turned eyes toward the
cake. He was, after all, only a hungry small boy. With quick
tenderness she stooped and kissed him gravely on the forehead.
Caresses were strange to Ferdinand William Otto. His warm
little heart leaped and pounded. At that moment, he would have
died for her!
Mr. Thorpe came home a little late. He kissed Bobby twelve
times, and one to grow on. He shook hands absently with the
visitor, and gave the Fraulein the evening paper - an
extravagance on which he insisted, although one could read the
news for nothing by going to the caf‚ on the corner. Then he
drew his wife aside.
"Look here!" he said. "Don't tell Bobby - no use exciting
him, and of course it's not our funeral anyhow but there's a
report that the Crown Prince has been kidnapped. And that's
not all. The old King is dying!"
"Worse than that. The old King gone and no Crown Prince! It
may mean almost any sort of trouble! I've closed up at the
Park for the night." His arm around his wife, he looked
through the doorway to where Bobby and Ferdinand were counting
the candles. "It's made me think pretty hard," he said.
"Bobby mustn't go around alone the way he's been doing. All
Americans here are considered millionaires. If the Crown
Prince could go, think how easy - "
His arm tightened around his wife, and together they went in to
the birthday feast. Ferdinand William Otto was hungry. He ate
eagerly - chicken, fruit compote, potato salad - again shades
of the Court physicians, who fed him at night a balanced ration
of milk, egg, and zwieback! Bobby also ate busily, and
Then the moment came when, the first cravings appeased, they
sat back in their chairs while Pepy cleared the table and
brought in a knife to cut the cake. Mr. Thorpe had excused
himself for a moment. Now he came back, with a bottle wrapped
in a newspaper, and sat down again.
"I thought," he said, "as this is a real occasion, not exactly
Robert's coming of age, but marking his arrival at years of
discretion, the period when he ceases to be a small boy and
becomes a big one, we might drink a toast to it."
"Robert!" objected the big boy's mother.
"A teaspoonful each, honey," he begged. "It changes it from a
mere supper to a festivity."
He poured a few drops of wine into the children's glasses, and
filled them up with water. Then he filled the others, and sat
smiling, this big young man, who had brought his loved ones
across the sea, and was trying to make them happy up a flight
of stone stairs, above a concierge's bureau that smelled of
"First," he said, " I believe it is customary to toast the
King. Friends, I give you the good King and brave soldier,
Ferdinand of Livonia."
They stood up to drink it, and even Pepy had a glass.
Ferdinand William Otto was on his feet first. He held his
glass up in his right hand, and his eyes shone. He knew what
to do. He had seen the King's health drunk any number of
"To His Majesty, Ferdinand of Livonia," he said solemnly. "God
keep the King!"
Over their glasses Mrs. Thorpe's eyes met her husband's. How
they trained their children here!
But Ferdinand William Otto had not finished. "I give you," he
said, in his clear young treble, holding his glass, " the
President of the United States - The President!"
"The President!" said Mr. Thorpe.
They drank again, except the Fraulein, who disapproved of
children being made much of, and only pretended to sip her
"Bobby," said his mother, with a catch in her voice, "haven't
you something to suggest - as a toast?"
Bobby's eyes were on the cake; he came back with difficulty.
"Well," he meditated, " I guess - would 'Home' be all right?"
"Home!" they all said, a little shakily, and drank to it.
Home! To the Thorpes, a little house on a shady street in
America; to the Fraulein, a thatched cottage in the mountains
of Germany and an old mother; to Pepy, the room in a tenement
where she went at night; to Ferdinand William Otto, a formal
suite of apartments in the Palace, surrounded by pomp, ordered
by rule and precedent, hardened by military discipline, and
unsoftened by family love, save for the grim affection of the
After all, Pepy's plan went astray, for the Fraulein got the
china baby, and Ferdinand William Otto the Lincoln penny.
"That," said Bobby's father, "is a Lincoln penny, young man.
It bears the portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Have you ever heard
The Prince looked up. Did he not know the "Gettysburg Address"
"Yes, sir," he said. "The - my grandfather thinks that
President Lincoln was a very great man."
"One of the world's greatest. I hardly thought, over here - "
Mr. Thorpe paused and looked speculatively at the boy. "You'd
better keep that penny where you won't lose it," he said
soberly. "It doesn't hurt us to try to be good. If you're in
trouble, think of the difficulties Abraham Lincoln surmounted.
If you want to be great, think how great he was." He was a
trifle ashamed of his own earnestness. "All that for a penny,
The festivities were taking a serious turn. There was a little
packet at each plate, and now Bobby's mother reached over and
"Oh!" she said, and exhibited a gaudy tissue paper bonnet.
Everybody had one. Mr. Thorpe's was a dunce's cap, and
Fraulein's a giddy Pierrette of black and white. Bobby had a
military cap. With eager fingers Ferdinand William Otto opened
his; he had never tasted this delicious paper-cap joy before.
It was a crown, a sturdy bit of gold paper, cut into points and
set with red paste jewels - a gem of a crown. He was charmed.
He put it on his head, with the unconsciousness of childhood,
and posed delightedly.
The Fraulein looked at Prince Ferdinand William Otto, and
slowly the color left her lean face. She stared. It was he,
then, and none other. Stupid, not to have known at the
beginning! He, the Crown Prince, here in the home of these
barbarous Americans, when, by every plan that had been made, he
should now be in the hands of those who would dispose of him.
" I give you," said Mr. Thorpe, raising his glass toward his
wife, "the giver of the feast. Boys, up with you!"
It was then that the Fraulein, making an excuse, slipped out of
THE KING IS DEAD
Now at last the old King's hour had come. Mostly he slept, as
though his body, eager for its long rest, had already given up
the struggle. Stimulants, given by his devoted physician, had
no effect. Other physicians there were, a group of them, but
it was Doctor Wiederman who stood by the bed and waited.
Father Gregory, his friend of many years, had come again from
Etzel, and it was he who had administered the sacrament. The
King had roused for it, and had smiled at the father.
"So!" he said, almost in a whisper, "you would send me clean!
It is hard to scour an old kettle."
Doctor Wiederman bent over the bed. "Majesty," he implored,
"if there is anything we can do to make you comfortable - "
"Give me Hubert's picture," said the King. When his fingers
refused to hold it, Annunciata came forward swiftly and held it
before him. But his heavy eyes closed. With more intuition
than might have been expected of her, the Archduchess laid it
on the white coverlet, and placed her father's hand on it.
The physicians consulted in an alcove. Annunciata went back to
her restless, noiseless pacing of the room. Father Gregory
went to a window, and stared out. He saw, not the silent crowd
in the Place, but many other things; the King, as a boy,
chafing under the restraint of Court ceremonial; the King, as a
young man, taking a wife who did not love him. He saw the King
madly in love with his wife, and turning to excesses to forget
her. Then, and for this the old priest thanked the God who was
so real to him, he saw the Queen bear children, and turning to
her husband because he was their father. They had lived to
love deeply and' truly.
Then had come the inevitable griefs. The Queen had died, and
had been saved a tragedy, for Hubert had been violently done to
death. And now again a tragedy had come, but one the King
would never know.
The two Sisters of Mercy stood beside the bed, and looked down
at the quiet figure.
"I should wish to die so," whispered the elder. "A long life,
filled with many deeds, and then to sleep away!"
"A long life, full of many sorrows!" observed the younger one,
her eyes full of tears. "He has outlived all that he loved."
"Except the little Otto."
Their glances met, for even here there was a question.
As if their thought had penetrated the haze which is, perhaps,
the mist that hides from us the gates of heaven, the old King
opened his eyes.
"Otto!" he said. "I - wish - "
Annunciata bent over him. "He is coming, father," she told
him, with white lips.
She slipped to her knees beside the bed, and looked up to
Doctor Wiederman with appealing eyes.
"I am afraid," she whispered. "Can you not - ?"
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