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Long Live the King
by Mary Roberts Rinehart
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Old Adelbert stood, staring blindly ahead. At last he went out into the street, muttering. "They shame us before the people," he said thickly.

The order of the Council had indeed been issued, a painful business over which Mettlich and the Council had pondered long. For, in the state of things, it was deemed unwise to permit any gathering of the populace en masse. Mobs lead to riots, and riots again to mobs. Five thousand armed men, veterans, but many of them in their prime, were in themselves a danger. And on these days of anniversary it had been the custom of the University to march also, a guard of honor. Sedition was rife among the students.

The order was finally issued...

Old Adelbert was not keen, but he did not lack understanding. And one thing he knew, and knew well. The concierge, downstairs was no patriot. Time had been when, over coffee and bread, he had tried to instill in the old soldier his own discontent, his new theories of a land where all were equal and no man king. He had hinted of many who believed as he did. Only hints, because old Adelbert had raised a trembling hand and proclaimed treason.

But now?

Late in the evening he made his resolve, and visited the bureau of the concierge. He was away, however, and his niece spoke through the barred window.

"Two days, or perhaps three," she said. "He is inspecting a farm in the country, with a view to purchase."

The old soldier had walked by the Palace that night, and had again shaken his fist at its looming shadow. "You will see," he said, "there be other sounds more painful than the thump of a wooden leg."

He was ill that night. He tossed about in a fever. His body ached, even the leg which so long ago had mouldered in its shallow grave on a battle-field. For these things happen. By morning he was better, but he was a different man. His eyes glowed. His body twitched. He was stronger, too, for now he broke his sword across his knee, and flung the pieces out of the window. And with them went the last fragment of his old loyalty to his King.

Old Adelbert was now, potentially, a traitor.

The spring came early that year. The last of February saw the parks green. Snowdrops appeared in the borders of paths. The swans left their wooden houses and drifted about in water much colder than the air. Bobby abandoned the aeroplane for a kite and threw it aloft from Pike's Peak. At night, when he undressed, marbles spilled out of his pockets and rolled under the most difficult furniture. Although it was still cold at nights and in the early mornings, he abandoned the white sweater and took to looking for birds and nests in the trees of the park. It was, of course, much too early for nests, but nevertheless he searched, convinced that even if grown-ups talked wisely of more cold weather, he and the birds knew it was spring. And, of course, the snow-drops.

On the morning after old Adelbert had turned his back on his King, Bobby Thorpe rose early, so early, indeed, that even Pepy still slept in her narrow bed, and the milk-sellers had not started on their rounds. The early rising was a mistake, owing to a watch which had strangely gained an hour.

Somewhat disconsolately, he wandered about. Heavy quiet reigned. From a window he watched the meat-seller hang out a freshly killed deer, just brought from the mountains He went downstairs and out on the street, past the niece of the concierge, who was scrubbing the stairs.

"I'm going for a walk," he told her. "If they send Pepy down you might tell her I'll be back for breakfast."

He stood for a time surveying the deer. Then he decided to go hunting himself. The meat-seller obligingly gave him the handle of a floor-brush, and with this improvised gun Bobby went deer-stalking. He turned into the Park, going stealthily, and searching the landscape with keen hunter's eyes. Once or twice he leveled his weapon, killed a deer, cut off the head, and went on. His dog trotted, at his heels. When a particularly good shot presented itself, Bobby said, "Down, Tucker," and Tucker, who played extremely well, would lie down, ears cocked, until the quarry was secured.

Around the old city gate, still standing although the wall of which it had been a part was gone, there was excellent hunting. Here they killed and skinned a bear, took fine ivory tusks from a dead elephant, and searched for the trail of a tiger.

The gate was an excellent place for a tiger. Around it was planted an almost impenetrable screen of evergreens, so thick that the ground beneath was quite bare of grass. Here the two hunters crawled on stomachs that began to feel a trifle empty, and here they happened on the trail.

Tucker found it first. His stumpy tail grew rigid. Nose to the ground, he crawled and wriggled through the undergrowth, Bobby at his heels. And now Bobby saw the trail, footprints. It is true that they resembled those of heavy boots with nails. But on the other hand, no one could say surely that the nail-marks were not those of claws.

Tucker circled about. The trail grew more exciting. Bobby had to crawl on hands and feet under and through thickets. Branches had been broken as by the passage of some large body. The sportsman clutched his weapon and went on.

An hour later the two hunters returned for breakfast. Washing did something to restore the leader to a normal appearance, but a wondering family discovered him covered with wounds and strangely silent.

"Why, Bob, where have you been?" his mother demanded. "Why, I never saw so many scratches!"

"I've been hunting," he replied briefly. "They don't hurt anyhow."

Then he relapsed into absorbed silence. His mother, putting cream on his cereal, placed an experienced hand on his forehead. "Are you sure you feel well, dear?" she asked. "I think your head is a little hot."

"I'm all right, mother."

She was wisely silent, but she ran over in her mind the spring treatment for children at home. The blood, she felt, should be thinned after a winter of sausages and rich cocoa. She mentally searched her medicine case.

A strange thing happened that day. A broken plate disappeared from the upper shelf of a closet, where Pepy had hidden it; also a cup with a nick in it, similarly concealed; also the heel of a loaf of bread. Nor was that the end. For three days a sort of magic reigned in Pepy's kitchen. Ten potatoes, laid out to peel, became eight. Matches and two ends of candle walked out, as it were, on their own feet. A tin pan with a hole in it left the kitchen-table and was discovered hiding in Bobby's bureau, when the Fraulein put away the washing.

On the third day Mrs. Thorpe took her husband into their room and closed the door.

"Bob," she said, "I don't want to alarm you. But there is something wrong with Bobby."

"Sick, you mean?"

"I don't know." Her voice was worried. "He's not a bit like himself. He is always away, for one thing. And he hardly eats at all."

"He looks well enough nourished!"

"And he comes home covered with mud. I have never seen his clothes in such condition. And last night, when he was bathing, I went into the bathroom. He is covered with scratches."

"Now see here, mother," the hunter's father protested, "you're the parent of a son, a perfectly hardy, healthy, and normal youngster, with an imagination. Probably he's hunting Indians. I saw him in the Park yesterday with his air-rifle. Any how, just stop worrying and let him alone. A scratch or two won't hurt him. And as to his not eating,—well, if he's not eating at home he's getting food somewhere, I'll bet you a hat."

So Bobby was undisturbed, save that the governess protested that he heard nothing she told him, and was absent-minded at his lessons. But as she was always protesting about something, no one paid any attention. Bobby drew ahead on his pocket allowance without question, and as his birthday was not far off, asked for "the dollar to grow on" in advance. He always received a dollar for each year, which went into the bank, and a dollar to grow on, which was his own to spend.

With the dollar he made a number of purchases candles and candlestick, a toy pistol and caps, one of the masks for the Carnival, now displayed in all the windows, a kitchen-knife, wooden plates, and a piece of bacon.

Now and then he appeared at the Scenic Railway, abstracted and viewing with a calculating eye the furnishings of the engine-room and workshop. From there disappeared a broken chair, a piece of old carpet, discarded from a car, and a large padlock, but the latter he asked for and obtained.

His occasional visits to the Railway, however, found him in old Adelbert's shack. He filled his pockets with charcoal from the pail beside the stove, and made cautious inquiries as to methods of cooking potatoes. But the pall of old Adelbert's gloom penetrated at last even through the boy's abstraction.

"I hope your daughter is not worse," he said politely, during one of his visits to the ticket-booth.

"She is well. She recovers strength rapidly."

"And the new uniform—does it fit, you?"

"I do not know," said old Adelbert grimly. "I have not seen it recently."

"On the day of the procession we are all going to watch for you. I'll tell you where we twill be, so you can look for us."

"There will be no procession."

Then to the boy old Adelbert poured out the bitterness of his soul. He showed where he had torn down the King's picture, and replaced it with one of a dying stag. He reviewed his days in the hospital, and the hardships through which he had passed, to come to this. The King had forgotten his brave men.

Bobby listened. "Pretty soon there won't be any kings," he observed. "My father says so. They're out of date."

"Aye," said old Adelbert.

"It would be kind of nice if you had a president. Then, if he acted up, you could put him out."

"Aye," said old Adelbert again.

During the rest of the day Bobby considered. No less a matter than the sharing of a certain secret occupied his mind. Now; half the pleasure of a secret is sharing it, naturally, but it should be with the right person. And his old playfellow was changed. Bobby, reflecting, wondered whether old Adelbert would really care to join his pirate crew, consisting of Tucker and himself. On the next day, however, he put the matter to the test, having resolved that old Adelbert needed distraction and cheering.

"You know," he said, talking through the window of the booth, "I think when I grow up I'll be a pirate."

"There be worse trades," said old Adelbert, whose hand was now against every man.

"And hide treasure," Bobby went on. "In a—in a cave, you know. Did you ever read 'Treasure Island'?"

"I may have forgotten it. I have read many things."

"You'd hardly forget it. You know—

'Fifteen men on a dead man's chest Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum.'"

Old Adelbert rather doubted the possibility of fifteen men on one dead man's chest, but he nodded gravely. "A spirited song," he observed.

Bobby edged closer to the window. "I've got the cave already."

"So!"

"Here, in the Park. It is a great secret. I'd like to show it to you. Only it's rather hard to get to. I don't know whether you'd care to crawl through the bushes to it."

"A cave—here in the Park?"

"I'll take you, if you'd like to see it."

Old Adelbert was puzzled. The Park offered, so far as he knew, no place for a cave. It was a plain, the site of the old wall; and now planted in grass and flowers. He himself had seen it graded and sown. A cave!

"Where?"

"That's a secret. But I'll show it to you, if you won't tell."

Old Adelbert agreed to silence. In fact, he repeated after the boy, in English he did not understand, a most blood-curdling oath of secrecy, and made the pirate sign—which, as every one knows, is a skull and crossbones—in the air with his forefinger.

"This cave," he said, half smiling, "must be a most momentous matter!"

Until midday, when the Railway opened for business, the old soldier was free. So the next morning, due precautions having been taken, the two conspirators set off. Three, rather, for Tucker, too, was now of the band of the black flag, having been taken in with due formality a day or two before, and behaving well and bravely during the rather trying rites of initiation.

Outside the thicket Bobby hesitated. "I ought to blindfold you," he said. "But I guess you'll need your eyes. It's a hard place to get to."

Perhaps, had he known the difficulties ahead, old Adelbert would not have gone on. And; had he turned back then, the history of a certain kingdom of Europe would have been changed. Maps, too, and schoolbooks, and the life-story of a small Prince. But he went on. Stronger than his young guide, he did not crawl, but bent aside the stiff and ungainly branches of the firs. He battled with the thicket, and came out victorious.. He was not so old, then, or so feeble. His arm would have been strong for the King, had not— "There it is!" cried Bobby.

Not a cave, it appeared at first. A low doorway, barred with an iron grating, and padlocked. A doorway in the base of a side wall of the gate, and so heaped with leaves that its lower half was covered.

Bobby produced a key. "I broke the padlock that was on it," he explained. "I smashed it with a stone. But I got another. I always lock it."

Prolonged search produced the key. Old Adelbert's face was set hard. On what dungeon had this boy stumbled? He himself had lived there many years, and of no such aperture had he heard mention. It was strange.

Bobby was removing the leaf-mould with his hands. "It was almost all covered when I found it," he said, industriously scraping. "I generally close it up like this when I leave. It's a good place for pirates, don't you think?"

"Excellent!"

"I've brought some things already. The lock's rusty. There it goes. There are rats. I hope you don't mind rats."

The door swung in, silently, as though the hinges had been recently oiled; as indeed they had, but not by the boy.

"It's rather dirty," he explained. "You go down steps first. Be very careful."

He extended an earthy hand and led the old man down. "It's dark here, but there's a room below; quite a good room. And I have candles."

Truly a room. Built of old brick, and damp, but with a free circulation of air. Old Adelbert stared about him. It was not entirely dark. A bit of light entered from the aperture at the head of the steps. By it, even before Bobby had lighted his candle, he saw the broken chair, the piece of old carpet, and the odds and ends the child had brought.

"I cook down here sometimes," said Bobby, struggling with matches that had felt the damp. "But it is very smoky. I should like to have a stove. You don't know where I can get a secondhand stove, do you? with a long pipe?"

Old Adelbert felt curiously shaken. "None have visited this place since you have been here?" he asked.

"I don't suppose any one knows about it. Do you?"

"Those who built it, perhaps. But it is old, very old. It is possible—"

He stopped, lost in speculation. There had been a story once of a passageway under the wall, but he recollected nothing clearly. A passageway leading out beyond the wall, through which, in a great siege, a messenger had been sent for help. But that was of a passage; while this was a dungeon.

The candle was at last lighted. It burned fitfully, illuminating only a tiny zone in the darkness.

"I need a lantern," Bobby observed. "There's a draft here. It comes from the other grating. Sometime, when you have time, I'd like to see what's beyond it. I was kind of nervous about going alone."

It was the old passage, then, of course. Old Adelbert stared as Bobby took the candle and held it toward a second grated door, like the first, but taller.

"There are rats there," he said. "I can hear them; about a million, I guess. They ate all the bread and bacon I left. Tucker can get through. He must have killed a lot of them."

"Lend me your candle."

A close examination revealed to old Adelbert two things: First, that a brick-lined passage, apparently in good repair, led beyond the grating. Second, that it had been recently put in order. A spade and wheelbarrow, both unmistakably of recent make, stood just beyond, the barrow full of bricks, as though fallen ones had been gathered up. Further, the padlock had been freshly oiled, and the hinges of the grating. No unused passage this, but one kept in order and repair. For what?

Bobby had adjusted the mask and thrust the knife through the belt of his Norfolk jacket. Now, folding his arms, he recited fiercely,

"'Fifteen men on a dead man's chest. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!'"

"A spirited song," observed old Adelbert, as before. But his eyes were on the grating.

That evening Adelbert called to see his friend, the locksmith in the University Place. He possessed, he said, a padlock of which he had lost the key, and which, being fastened to a chest, he was unable to bring with him. A large and heavy padlock, perhaps the size of his palm.

When he left, he carried with him a bundle of keys, tied in a brown paper.

But he did not go back to his chest. He went instead to the thicket around the old gate, which was still termed the "Gate of the Moon," and there, armed with a lantern, pursued his investigations during a portion of the night.

When he had finished, old Adelbert, veteran of many wars, one-time patriot and newly turned traitor, held in his shaking hands the fate of the kingdom.



CHAPTER XXVI. AT THE INN

The Countess Loschek was on her way across the border. The arrangements were not of her making. Her plan, which had been to go afoot across the mountain to the town of Ar-on-ar, and there to hire a motor, had been altered by the arrival at the castle, shortly after the permission was given, of a machine. So short an interval, indeed, had elapsed that she concluded, with reason, that this car now placed at her disposal was the one which had brought that permission.

"The matter of passports for the border is arranged, madame," Black Humbert told her.

"I have my own passports," she said proudly.

"They will not be necessary."

"I will have this interview at my destination alone; or not at all."

He drew himself to his great height and regarded her with cold eyes. "As you wish," he said. "But it is probably not necessary to remind madame that, whatever is discussed at this meeting, no word must be mentioned of the Committee, or its plans."

Although he made no threat, she had shivered. No, there must be no word of the Committee, or of the terror that drove her to Karl. For, if the worst happened, if he failed her, and she must do the thing they had set her to do, Karl must never know. That card she must play alone.

So she was not even to use her own passports! Making her hasty preparations, again the Countess marveled. Was there no limit to the powers of the Committee of Ten? Apparently the whole machinery of the Government was theirs to command. Who were they, these men who had sat there immobile behind their masks? Did she meet any of them daily in the Palace? Were the eyes that had regarded her with unfriendly steadiness that night in the catacombs, eyes that smiled at her day by day, in the very halls of the King? Had any of those shrouded and menacing figures bent over her hand with mocking suavity? She wondered.

A hasty preparation at the last it was, indeed, but a careful toilet had preceded it. Now that she was about to see Karl again, after months of separation, he must find no flaw in her. She searched her mirror for the ravages of the past few days, and found them. Yet, appraising herself with cold eyes, she felt she was still beautiful. The shadows about her eyes did not dim them.

Everything hung on the result of her visit. If Karl persisted, if he would marry Hedwig in spite of the trouble it would precipitate, then indeed she was lost. If, on the other hand, he was inclined to peace, if her story of a tottering throne held his hand, she would defy the Committee of Ten. Karl himself would help her to escape, might indeed hide her. It would not be for long. Without Karl's support the King's death would bring the Terrorists into control. They would have other things to do than to hunt her out. Their end would be gained without her. Let them steal the Crown Prince, then. Let Hedwig fight for her throne and lose it. Let the streets run, deep with blood and all the pandemonium of hell break loose.

But if Karl failed her?

Even here was the possibility of further mischance. Suppose the boy gone, and the people yet did not rise? Suppose then that Hedwig, by her very agency, gained the throne and held it. Hedwig, Queen of Livonia in her own right, and Karl's wife!

She clenched her teeth.

Over country roads the machine jolted and bumped. At daybreak they had not yet reached the border. In a narrow lane they encountered a pilgrimage of mountain folk, bent for the shrine at Etzel.

The peasants drew aside to let the Machine pass, and stared at it. They had been traveling afoot all night, and yet another day and a night would elapse before they could kneel in the church.

"A great lady," said one, a man who carried a sleeping child in his arms.

"Perhaps," said a young girl, "she too has made a pilgrimage. All go to Etzel, the poor and the rich. And all receive grace."

The Countess did not sleep. She was, with every fiber of her keen brain, summoning her arguments. She would need them, for she knew—none better—how great a handicap was hers. She loved Karl, and he knew it. What had been her strength had become her weakness.

Yet she was composed enough when, before the sun was well up, the machine drew up in the village before the inn where Mettlich had spent his uneasy hours.

Her heavy veils aroused the curiosity of the landlord. When, shortly after, his daughter brought down a letter to be sent at once to the royal hunting-lodge, he shrugged his shoulders. It was not the first time a veiled woman had come to his inn under similar circumstances. After all, great people are but human. One cannot always be a king.

The Countess breakfasted in her room. The landlord served her himself, and narrowly inspected her. She was not so young as he had hoped, but she was beautiful. And haughty. A very great person, he decided, incognito.

The King was hunting, he volunteered. There were great doings at the lodge. Perhaps Her Excellency would be proceeding there.

She eyed him stonily, and then sent him off about his business.

So all the day she ate her heart out in her bare room. Now and then the clear sound of bugles reached her, but she saw no hunters. Karl followed the chase late that day. It was evening before she saw the tired horses straggling through the village streets. Her courage was oozing by that time. What more could she say than what he already knew? Many agencies other than hers kept him informed of the state of affairs in Livonia. A bitter thought, this, for it showed Karl actuated by love of Hedwig, and not by greed of power. She feared that more than she feared death.

She had expected to go to the lodge, but at nine o'clock that night Karl came to her, knocking at the door of her room and entering without waiting for permission.

The room was small and cozy with firelight. Her scarlet cloak, flung over a chair, made a dash of brilliant color. Two lighted candles on a high carved chest, and between them a plaster figure of the Mother and Child, a built-in bed with white curtains—that was the room.

Before the open fire Olga Loschek sat in her low chair. She wore still her dark traveling dress; and a veil, ready to be donned at the summons of a message from Karl, trailed across her knee. In the firelight she looked very young—young and weary. Karl, who had come hardened to a scene, found her appealing, almost pathetic.

She rose at his entrance and, after a moment of surprise, smiled faintly. But she said nothing, nor did Karl, until he had lifted one of her cold hands and brushed it with his lips.

"Well!" he said. "And again, Olga!"

"Once again." She looked up at him. Yes, he was changed. The old Karl would have taken her in his arms. This new Karl was urbane, smiling, uneasy.

He said nothing. He was apparently waiting for her to make the first move. But she did not help him. She sat down and he drew a small chair to the fire.

"There is nothing wrong, is there?" he said. "Your note alarmed me. Not the note, but your coming here."

"Nothing—and everything." She felt suddenly very tired. Her very voice was weary. "I sent you a letter asking you to come to the castle. There were things to discuss, and I did not care to take this risk of coming here."

"I received no letter."

"No!" She knew it, of course, but she pretended surprise, a carefully suppressed alarm.

"I have what I am afraid is bad news, Olga. The letter was taken. I received only a sheet of blank paper."

"Karl!" She leaped to her feet.

She was no mean actress. And behind it all was her real terror, greater, much greater, than he could know. Whatever design she had on Karl's pity, she was only acting at the beginning. Deadly peril was clutching her, a double peril, of the body and of the soul.

"Taken! By whom?"

"By some one you know—young Larisch."

"Larisch!" No acting there. In sheer amazement she dropped back from him, staring with wide eyes. Nikky Larisch! Then how had the Terrorists got it? Was all the world in their employ?

"But—it is impossible!"

"I'm sorry, Olga. But even then there is something to be explained. We imprisoned him—we got him in a trap, rather by accident. He maintained that he had not made away with the papers. A mystery, all of it. Only your man, Niburg, could explain, and he—"

"Yes?"

"I am afraid he will never explain, Olga."

Then indeed horror had its way with her. Niburg executed as a spy, after making who knew what confession! What then awaited her at the old castle above the church at Etzel? Karl, seeing her whitening lips, felt a stirring of pity. His passion for her was dead, but for a long time he had loved her, and now, in sheer regret, he drew her to him.

"Poor girl," he said softly. "Poor girl!" And drew his hand gently over her hair.

She shivered at his touch. "I can never go back," she said brokenly.

But at that he freed her. "That would be to confess before you are accused," he reminded her. "We do not know that Niburg told. He was doomed anyhow. To tell would help nothing. The letter, of course, was in code?"

"Yes."

She sat down again, fighting for composure.

"I am not very brave," she said. "It was unexpected. In a moment I shall be calmer. You must not think that I regret the risk. I have always been proud to do my best for you."

That touched him. In the firelight, smiling wanly at him, she was very like the girl who had attracted him years before. Her usual smiling assurance was gone. She looked sad, appealing. And she was right. She had always done her best for him. But he was cautious, too.

"I owe you more than I can tell you," he said. "It is the sort of debt that can never be paid. Your coming here was a terrible risk. Something urgent must have brought you."

She pushed back her heavy hair restlessly.

"I was anxious. And there were things I felt you should know."

"What things?"

"The truth about the King's condition, for one. He is dying. The bulletins lie. He is no better."

"Why should the bulletins lie?"

"Because there is a crisis. You know it. But you cannot know what we know—the living in fear, the precautions, everything."

"So!" said Karl uneasily. "But the Chancellor assured me—" He stopped. It was not yet time to speak of the Chancellor's visit.

"The Chancellor! He lies, of course. How bad things are you may judge when I tell you that a hidden passage from the Palace has been opened and cleared, ready for instant flight."

It was Karl's turn to be startled. He rose, and stood staring down at her. "Are you certain of that?"

"Certain!" She laughed bitterly. "The Terrorists Revolutionists, they call themselves—are everywhere. They know everything, see everything. Mettlich's agents are disappearing one by one. No one knows where, but all suspect. Student meetings are prohibited. The yearly procession of veterans is forbidden, for they trust none, even their old soldiers. The Council meets day after day in secret session."

"But the army—"

"They do not trust the army."

Karl's face was grave. Something of the trouble in Livonia he had known. But this argued an immediate crisis.

"On the King's death," the Countess said, "a republic will be declared. The Republic of Livonia! The Crown Prince will never reign."

She shivered, but Karl was absorbed in the situation.

"Incredible!" he commented. "These fears are sometimes hysterias, but what you say of the preparations for flight—I thought the boy was very popular."

"With some. But when has a child stood between the mob and the thing it wants? And the thing they cry for is liberty. Down with the royal house! Down with the aristocracy!"

She was calm enough now. Karl was listening, was considering, looked uneasy. She had been right. He was not for acquiring trouble, even by marriage.

But, if she had read Karl, he also knew her. In all the years he had known her she had never been reckless. Daring enough, but with a calculating daring that took no chances. And yet she had done a reckless thing by coming to him. From under lowered eyelids he considered her. Why had she done it? The situation was serious enough, but even then— "So you came to-day to tell me this?"

She glanced up, and catching his eyes, colored faintly. "These are things you should know."

He knew her very well. A jealous woman would go far. He knew now that she was jealous. When he spoke it was with calculating brutality. "You mean, in view of my impending marriage?"

So it was arranged! Finally arranged. Well, she had done her best. He knew the truth. She had told it fairly. If, knowing it, he persisted, it would be because her power over him was dead at last.

"Yes. I do not know how far your arrangements have gone. You have at least been warned."

But she saw, by the very way he drew himself up and smiled, that he understood. More than that, he doubted her. He questioned what she had said.

The very fact that she had told him only the truth added to her resentment.

"You will see," she said sullenly.

Because he thought he already saw, and because she had given him a bad moment, Karl chose to be deliberately cruel. "Perhaps!" he said. "But even then if this marriage were purely one of expediency, Olga, I might hesitate. Frankly, I want peace. I am tired of war, tired of bickering, tired of watching and being watched. But it is not one of expediency. Not, at least, only that. You leave out of this discussion the one element that I consider important, Hedwig herself. If the Princess Hedwig were to-morrow to be without a country, I should still hope to marry her."

She had done well up to now, had kept her courage and her temper, had taken her cue from him and been quiet and poised. But more than his words, his cruel voice, silky with friendship, drove her to the breaking point. Karl, who hated a scene, found himself the victim of one, and was none the happier that she who had so long held him off was now herself at arm's length, and struggling.

Bitterly, and with reckless passion, she flung at him Hedwig's infatuation for young Larisch, and prophesied his dishonor as a result of it. That leaving him cold and rather sneering, she reviewed their old intimacy, to be reminded that in that there had been no question of marriage, or hope of it.

"I am only human, Olga," he said, in an interval when she had fallen to quiet weeping. "I loved you very sincerely, and for a long time. Marriage between us was impossible. You always knew that."

In the end she grew quiet and sat looking into the fire with eyes full of stony despair. She had tried and failed. There was one way left, only one, and even that would not bring him back to her. Let Hedwig escape and marry Nikky Larisch—still where was she? Let the Terrorists strike their blow and steal the Crown Prince. Again—where was she?

Her emotions were deadened, all save one, and that was her hatred of Hedwig. The humiliation of that moment was due to her. Somehow, some day, she would be even with Hedwig. Karl left her there at last, huddled in her chair, left full of resentment, the ashes of his old love cold and gray. There was little reminder of the girl of the mountains in the stony-eyed woman he had left sagged low by the fire.

Once out in the open air, the King of Karnia drew a long breath. The affair was over. It had been unpleasant. It was always unpleasant to break with a woman. But it was time. He neither loved her nor needed her. Friendly relations between the two countries were established; and soon, very soon, would be ratified by his marriage.

It was not of Olga Loschek, but of Hedwig that he thought, as his car climbed swiftly to the lodge.



CHAPTER XXVII. THE LITTLE DOOR

Hedwig had given up. She went through her days with a set face, white and drawn, but she knew now that the thing she was to do must be done. The King, in that stormy scene when the Sister prayed in the next room, had been sufficiently explicit. They had come on bad times, and could no longer trust to their own strength. Proud Livonia must ask for help, and that from beyond her border.

"We are rotten at the core," he said bitterly. "An old rot that has eaten deep. God knows, we have tried to cut it away, but it has gone too far. Times are, indeed, changed when we must ask a woman to save us!"

She had thrown her arms over the bed and buried her face in them. "And I am to be sacrificed," she had said, in a flat voice. "I am to go through my life like mother, soured and unhappy. Without any love at all."

The King was stirred. His thin, old body had sunk in the bed until it seemed no body at all. "Why without love?" he asked, almost gently. "Karl knows our condition—not all of it, but he is well aware that things are unstable here. Yet he is eager for the marriage. I am inclined to believe that he follows his inclinations, rather than a political policy."

The thought that Karl might love her had not entered her mind. That made things worse, if anything—a situation unfair to him and horrible to herself. In the silence of her own room, afterward, she pondered over that. If it were true, then a certain hope she had must be relinquished—none other than to throw herself on his mercy, and beg for a nominal marriage, one that would satisfy the political alliance, but leave both of them free. Horror filled her. She sat for long periods, dry-eyed and rigid.

The bronze statue of the late Queen, in the Place, fascinated her in those days. She, too, had been only a pawn in the game of empires; but her face, as Hedwig remembered it, had been calm and without bitterness. The King had mourned her sincerely. What lay behind that placid, rather austere old face? Dead dreams? Or were the others right, that after a time it made no difference, that one marriage was the same as another?

She had not seen Nikky save once or twice, and that in the presence of others. On these occasions he had bowed low, and passed on. But once she had caught his eyes on her, and had glowed for hours at what she saw in them. It braced her somewhat for the impending ordeal of a visit from Karl.

The days went on. Dressmakers came and went. In the mountains lace-makers were already working on the veil, and the brocade of white and gold for her wedding-gown was on the loom. She was the pale center of a riot of finery. Dressmakers stood back and raised delighted hands as, one by one; their models were adjusted to her listless figure.

In the general excitement the Crown Prince was almost forgotten. Only Nikky remained faithful; but his playing those days was mechanical, and one day he was even severe. This was when he found Prince Ferdinand William Otto hanging a cigarette out of a window overlooking the courtyard, and the line of soldiers underneath in most surprising confusion. The officer of the day was not in sight.

Nikky, entering the stone-paved court, and feeling extremely glum, had been amazed to see the line of guards, who usually sat on a bench, with a sentry or picket, or whatever they called him, parading up and down before them—Nikky was amazed to see them one by one leaping into the air, in the most undignified manner. Nikky watched the performance. Then he stalked over. They subsided sheepishly. In the air was the cause of the excitement, a cigarette dangling at the end of a silk thread, and bobbing up and down. No one was to be seen at 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 places.

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 chintz-covered chair.

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 Prince.

"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 gripping hard.

"It's higher than usual, isn't it?" he inquired, squinting at the hurdle.

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 riding-master.

"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 cautious."

"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 save her."

"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 to forget.

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 only whistled.

"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 the manner."

"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 to die.

And he did not die.



CHAPTER XXVIII. 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 condition.

"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 she reflected.

"I will send no letter," she decided, "but I will give you a message, which you can deliver."

"Yes, madame."

"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 unpleasantnesses.

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 pilgrimage.

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 efficacious."

"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 affair."

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 very seriously."

"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 so on.

"When people are ill," he said sagely, "they go to Etzel to be cured."

"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 good thing."

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?"

"Yes, Otto."

He considered. "And my grandmother?"

"Yes."

"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 know."

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 shaggy head.

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 with threats.

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, kneeling, plot!

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 grandfather's life.

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.



CHAPTER XXIX. 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 sample them.

"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 otherwise."

"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 them."

"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 did nothing."

"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 order."

"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 may 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. Not before."

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 him."

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 confessed."

"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 his crop."

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 its strength."

"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 breaking-point.

The concierge was speaking. For all his boasting, he was ill at ease. His voice had lost its bravado, and had taken on a fawning note.

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