X
YETIVE

There could be no further hesitation. Something must be done and instantly. He gently closed the door before answering the third question. In his nervousness he spoke in English, advancing to the middle of the room. Impossible to see the woman to whom he hissed this alarming threat-he only could speculate as to its effect:

“If you utter a sound, madam, I shall kill you. Be calm, and allow me to explain my presence here!”

He expected her to shriek, forgetting that she might not understand his words. Instead there was a deathly silence. Had she swooned? His heart was leaping with hope. But she spoke softly again, tremulously, and in English:

“You will find my jewels on the dressing table. Take them and go You will not hurt me?”

“I am not here to do you injury, but to serve your Princess,” whispered the man. “For God's sake, do not make an outcry. You will ruin everything. Will you let me explain?”

“Go! Go! Take anything! I can be calm no longer. Oh, how can I expect mercy at your hands!” Her tones were rising to a wail of terror.

“Sh! Do you want to die?” he hissed, striding to the canopy bed, discernible as his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness. “I will kill you if you utter a sound, so help me God!”

“Oh!” she moaned.

“Listen! You must aid me! Do you hear?”

Another heart-breaking moan. “I am here to save the Princess. There is a plot to abduct her to-night. Already there are men in the castle, perhaps in her room. You must tell me where she sleeps. There is no time to be lost. I am no thief, before God! I am telling you the truth. Do not be alarmed, I implore you. Trust me, madam, and you will not regret it. Where does the Princess sleep?” He jerked out these eager, pleading words quickly, breathlessly.

“How am I to trust you?” came back a whisper from the bed.

“Here is a revolver! Take it and kill me if I attempt the slightest injury. Where are you?” He felt along the bed with his hand.

“Keep away! Please! Please!” she sobbed.

“Take the pistol! Be calm, and in heaven's name help me to save her. Those wretches may have killed her already!”

The revolver dropped upon the clothes. He was bending eagerly over, holding the curtains back.

“My friend is in the hall. We have traced the men to the Princess's door, I think. My God, be quick! Do you wish to see her stolen from under your eyes?”

“You are now in the Princess's room,” answered the voice from the bed, calmer and with some alacrity. “Is this true that you tell me?”

“As God is my witness! And you—you—are you the Princess?” gasped the man, drawing back.

“I am. Where is Dannox?” She was sitting bolt upright in the bed, the pistol in her trembling fingers.

“He is one of the conspirators. One of the cooks and two other guards are in the plot. Can you trust me enough to leave your bed and hide in another part of the room? The scoundrels have mistaken the door, but they may be here at any moment. You must be quick! I will protect you—I swear it! Come, your Highness! Hide!”

Something in the fierce, anxious whisper gave her confidence. The miracle had been wrought! He had composed this woman under the most trying circumstances that could have teen imagined. She slipped from the bed and threw a long, loose silken gown about her.

“Who are you?” she asked, touching his arm.

“I am a foreigner—an American—Grenfall Lorry! Hurry!” he implored.

She did not move for a moment, but he distinctly heard her catch her breath.

“Am I dreaming?” she murmured, faintly. Her fingers now clutched his arm tightly.

“I should say not! I don't like to order you around, your Highness, but—”

“Come—— come to the light!” she interrupted, excitedly. “Over here!”

Noiselessly she drew him across the room until the light fell across his face. It was not a bright light, but what she saw satisfied her. He could not see her face, for she stood outside the strip of dusky yellow.

“Two men lie beneath your window, and two are coming to this room. Where shall I go? Come, be quick, madam! Do you want to be carted off to Ganlook? Then don't stand there like a—like a—pardon me, I won't say it.”

“I trust you fully. Shall I alarm the guard?” she whispered, recovering her self-possession.

“By no means. I want to catch those devils myself. Afterwards we can alarm the guards!”

“An ideal American!” she surprised him by saying. “Follow me!”

She led him to the doorway. “Stand here, and I will call the Countess. At this side, where it is dark.”

She opened the door gently and stood in the light for a second. He saw before him a graceful figure in trailing white, and then he saw her face. She was Miss Guggenslocker!

“My God!” he hoarsely gasped, staggering toward her. “You! You! The Princess?”

“Yes, I am the Princess,” she whispered, smiling as she glided away from his side. His eyes went round in his head, his legs seemed to be anywhere but beneath him, he felt as though he were rushing toward the ceiling. For the moment he was actually unconscious. Then his senses rushed back, recalling his mission and his danger.

“She is sleeping so soundly that I fear to awaken her,” whispered a soft voice at his back, and he turned.. The Princess was standing in the doorway.

“Then pray stand back where you will be out of danger. They will be here in a moment, unless they have been frightened away.”

“You shall not expose yourself,” she said, positively. “Why should you risk your life now? You have accomplished your object. You have saved the Princess!”

“Ah—yes, the Princess!” he said. “And I am sorry you are the Princess,” he added, in her ear.

“Sh!” she whispered, softly.

The door through which he had first come was softly opened, and they were conscious that some one was entering. Lorry and the Princess stood in the dark shadow of a curtain, she close behind his stalwart figure. He could hear his own heart and hers beating, could feel the warmth of her body, although it did not touch his. His heart beat with the pride of possession, of power, with the knowledge that he had but to stretch out his hand and touch the one woman in all the world.

Across the dim belt of light from the open doorway in which they stood, crawled the dark figure of a man. Her hand unconsciously touched his back as if seeking reassurance.

He shivered beneath its gentle weight. Another form followed the first, pausing in the light to look toward their doorway. The abductor was doubtless remembering the instructions to chloroform the Countess. Then came the odor of chloroform. Oh, if Anguish were only there!

The second figure was lost in the darkness and a faint glow of light came from the canopied bed in the corner The chloroformer holding the curtains had turned his screen-lantern, toward the pillow in order to apply the dampened cloth. Now was the time to act!

Pushing the Princess behind the curtain and in the shelter of the door-post, Lorry leaped toward the center of the room, a pistol in each hand. Before him crouched the astonished desperadoes.

“If you move you are dead men!” said he, in slow decided tones. “Here, Harry!” he shouted. “Scoundrels, you are trapped! Throw up your hands!”

Suddenly the room was a blaze of light; flashing candles, lamps, sprung into life from the walls, while a great chandelier above his head dazzled him with its unexpected glare.

“Hell!” he shouted, half throwing his hands to his eyes.

Something rushed upon him from behind; there was a scream and then a stinging blow across the head and neck. As he sank helplessly, angrily, to his knees he heard the Princess wail:

“Dannox! Do not strike again! You have killed him!”

As he rolled to the floor he saw the two forms near the bed moving about like shadows: two red objects that resembled dancing telegraph poles leaped past him from he knew not where, and then there was a shout, the report of a pistol, a horrid yell. Something heavy crashed down beside him and writhed. His eyes were closing, his senses were going, he was numb and sleepy. Away off in the distance he heard Harry Anguish crying:

“That settles you, damn you!”

Some one lifted his head from the carpet and a woman's voice was crying something unintelligible. He was conscious of an effort on his part to prevent the blood from streaming over her gown—a last bit of gallantry. The sound of rushing feet, shouts, firearms—oblivion!

    . . . . . . . . . . .

When Lorry regained consciousness, he blinked in abject amazement. There was a dull, whirring sound in his ears, and his eyes had a glaze over them that was slow in wearing off. There were persons in the room. He could see them moving about and could hear them talking. As his eyes tried to take in the strange surroundings, a hand was lifted from his forehead and a soft, dream-like voice said:

“He is recovering, Mr. Anguish. See, his eyes are open! Do you know me, Mr. Lorry?”

The unsteady eyes wandered until they fell upon the face near his pillow. A brighter gleam came into them, and there was a ray of returning intelligence. He tried to speak, but could only move his lips. As he remembered her, she was in white, and he was puzzled now to see her in a garment of some dark material, suggestive of the night or the green of a shady hillside. There was the odor of roses and violets and carnations. Then he looked for the fatal, fearful, glaring chandelier. It was gone. The room was becoming lighter and lighter as his eyes grew stronger, but it was through a window near where he lay. So it was daylight! Where was he?

“How do you feel, old man?” asked a familiar voice. A man sat down beside him on the couch or bed, and a big hand grasped his own. Still he could not answer.

“Doctor,” cried the voice near his head, “you really think it is not serious?”

“I am quite sure,” answered a man's voice from somewhere out in the light. “It is a bad cut, and he is just recovering from the effect of the ether. Had the blow not been a glancing one his skull would have been crushed. He will be perfectly conscious in a short time. There is no concussion, your Highness.”

“I am so happy to hear you say that,” said the soft voice. Lorry's eyes sought hers and thanked her. A lump came into his throat as he looked up into the tender, anxious blue eyes. A thrill came over him. Princess or not, he loved her—he loved her! “You were very brave—oh, so brave!” she whispered in his ear, her hand touching his hair caressingly. “My American!”

He tried to reach the hand before it faded, but he was too weak. She glided away, and he closed his eyes again as if in pain.

“Look up, old man; you're all right,” said Anguish. “Smell this handkerchief. It will make you feel better.” A moist cloth was held beneath his nose, and a strong, pungent odor darted through his nostrils. In a moment he tried to raise himself to his elbow. The world was clearing up.

“Lie still a bit, Lorry. Don't be too hasty. The doctor says you must not.”

“Where am I, Harry?” asked the wounded man, weakly.

“In the castle. I'll tell you all about it presently.”

“Am I in her room?”

“No, but she is in yours. You are across the hall in”—here he whispered—“Uncle Caspar's room. Caspar is a Count.”

“And she is the Princess—truly?”

“What luck!”

“What misery—what misery!” half moaned the other.

“Bosh! Be a man! Don't talk so loud, either! There are a half-dozen in the room.”

Lorry remained perfectly quiet for ten minutes, his staring eyes fixed on the ceiling. He was thinking of the abyss he had reached and could not cross.

“What time is it?” he asked at last, turning his eyes toward his friend.

“It's just seven o'clock. You have been unconscious or under the influence of ether for over four hours. That guard hit you a fearful crack.”

“I heard a shot—a lot of them. Was any one killed? Did those fellows escape?”

“Killed! There have been eight executions besides the one I attended to. Lord, they don't wait long here before handing out justice.”

“Tell me all that happened. Was she hurt?”

“I should say not! Say, Gren, I have killed a man. Dannox got my bullet right in the head and he never knew what hit him. Ghastly, isn't it? I feel beastly queer. It was he who turned on the lights and went at you with a club. I heard you call, and was in the door just as he hit you. His finish came inside of a second. You and he spoiled the handsomest rug I ever saw.”

“Ruined it?”

“Not in her estimation. I'll wager she has it framed, blood and all. The stains will always be there as a reminder of your bravery, and that's what she says she's bound to keep. She was very much excited and alarmed about you until the room filled with men and then she remembered how she was attired. I never saw anything so pretty as her embarrassment when the Countess and her aunt led her into the next room. These people are going out, so I'll tell you what happened after you left me with the cook. He was a long time falling under the influence, and I had barely reached the top of the stairs when I saw Dannox rush down the hall. Then you called, and I knew the jig was on in full blast. The door was open, and I saw him strike you. I shot him, but she was at your side before I could get to you. The other fellows who were in the room succeeded in escaping while I was bending over you, but neither of them shot at me. They were too badly frightened. I had sense enough left to follow and shoot a couple of times as they tore down the stairs. One of them stumbled and rolled all the way to the bottom. He was unconscious and bleeding when I reached his side. The other fellow flew toward the dining-hall, where he was nabbed by two white uniformed men and throttled. Other men in white—they were regular police officers—pounced upon me, and I was a prisoner. By George, I was knocked off my feet the next minute to see old Dangloss himself come puffing and blowing into the hall, redder and fiercer than ever. 'Now I know what you want in Edelweiss!' he shrieked, and it took me three minutes to convince him of his error. Then he and some of the men went up to the Princess' room, while I quickly led the way to the big gate and directed a half-dozen officers toward the ravine. By this, time the grounds were alive with guards. They came up finally with the two fellows who had been stationed beneath the window and who were unable to find the gate. When I got back to where you were the room was full of terrified men and women, half dressed. I was still dazed over the sudden appearance of the police, but managed to tell my story in full to Dangloss and Count Halfont—that's Uncle Caspar—and then the chief told me how he and his men happened to be there. In the meantime, the castle physician was attending to you. Dannox had been carried away. I never talked to a more interested audience in my life! There was the Princess at my elbow and the Countess—pretty as a picture—back of her, all eyes, both of 'em; and there was the old gray-haired lady, the Countess Halfont, and a half-dozen shivering maids, with men galore, Dangloss and the Count and a lot of servants,—a great and increasing crowd. The captain of the guards, a young fellow named Quinnox, as I heard him called, came in, worried and humiliated. I fancy he was afraid he'd lose his job. You see, it was this way: Old Dangloss has had a man watching us all day. Think of it! Shadowing us like a couple of thieves. This fellow traced us to the castle gate and then ran back for reinforcements, confident that we were there to rob. In twenty minutes he had a squad of officers at the gate, the chief trailing along behind. They found the pile of tools we had left there, and later the other chap in the arbor. A couple of guards came charging up to learn the cause of the commotion, and the whole crew sailed into the castle, arriving just in time. Well, just as soon as I had told them the full story of the plot, old Caspar, the chief and the captain held a short consultation, the result of which I can tell in mighty few words. At six o'clock they took the whole gang of prisoners down in the ravine and shot them. The mounted guards are still looking for the two Viennese who were left with the carriage. They escaped. About an hour after you were hurt you were carried over here and laid on this couch. I want to tell you, Mr. Lorry, you are the most interesting object that ever found its way into a royal household. They have been hanging over you as if you were a new-born baby, and everybody's charmed because you are a boy and are going to live. As an adventure this has been a record-breaker, my son! We are cocks of the walk!”

Lorry was smiling faintly over his enthusiasm.

“You are the real hero, Harry, You saved my life and probably hers. I'll not allow you or anybody to give me the glory,” he said, pressing the other's hand.

“Oh, that's nonsense! Anybody could have rushed in as I did. I was only capping the climax you had prepared—merely a timely arrival, as the novels say. There is a little of the credit due me, of course, and I'll take it gracefully, but I only come in as an accessory, a sort of bushwhacker who had only to do the shoot, slap-bang work and close the act. You did the hero's work. But what do you think of the way they hand out justice over here? All but two of 'em dead!”

“Whose plan was it to kill those men?” cried Lorry, suddenly sitting upright.

“Everybody's, I fancy. They didn't consult me, though, come to think of it. Ah, here is Her Royal Highness!”

The Princess and Aunt Yvonne were at his side again, while Count Caspar was coming rapidly toward them.

“You must not sit up, Mr. Lorry,” began the Princess, but he was crying:

“Did they make a confession, Harry?”

“I don't know. Did they, Unc—Count Halfont? Did they confess? Great heavens, I never thought of that before.”

“What was there to confess?” asked the Count, taking Lorry's hand kindly. “They were caught in the act. My dear sir, they were not even tried.”

“I thought your police chief was such a shrewd man,” cried Lorry, angrily.

“What's that?” asked a gruff voice, and Baron Dangloss was a member of the party, red and panting.

“Don't you know you should not have killed those men?” demanded Lorry. They surveyed him in amazement, except Anguish, who had buried his face in his hands dejectedly.

“And, sir, I'd like to know why not?” blustered Dangloss.

“And, sir, I'd like to know, since you have shot the only beings on earth who knew the man that hired them, how in the name of your alleged justice you are going to apprehend him?” said Lorry, sinking back to his pillow, exhausted.

No reserve could hide the consternation, embarrassment and shame that overwhelmed a very worthy but very impetuous nobleman, Baron Jasto Dangloss, chief of police in Edelweiss. He could only sputter his excuses and withdraw, swearing to catch the arch-conspirator or to die in the attempt. Not a soul in the castle, not a being in all Graustark could offer the faintest clew to the identity of the man or explain his motive. No one knew a Michael, who might have been inadvertently addressed as “your” possible “Highness.” The greatest wonder reigned; vexation, uneasiness and perplexity existed everywhere.

Standing there with her head on her aunt's shoulder, her face grave and troubled, the Princess asked:

“Why should they seek to abduct me? Was it to imprison or to kill me? Oh, Aunt Yvonne, have I not been good to my people? God knows I have done all that I can. I could have done no more. Is it a conspiracy to force me from the throne? Who can be so cruel?”

And no one could answer. They could simply offer words of comfort and promises of protection. Later in the day gruff Dangloss marched in and apologized to the Americans for his suspicions concerning them, imploring their assistance in running down the chief villain. And as the hours went by Count Halfont font came in and, sitting beside Grenfall, begged his pardon and asked him to forget the deception that had been practiced in the United States. He explained the necessity for traveling incognito at that time. After which the Count entered a plea for Her Royal Highness, who had expressed contrition and wished to be absolved.

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