The Princess Yetive had not flinched a hair's breadth from the resolution formed on that stormy night when she sacrificed pride and duty on the altar of love and justice. Prince Bolaroz's ultimatum overwhelmed her, but she arose from the wreckage that was strewn about her conscience and remained loyal, steadfast and true to the man in the monastery. To save his life was all she could hope to accomplish, and that she was bound to do at any cost. She could be nothing to him—not even friend. So long as he lived he would be considered the murderer of Lorenz, and until the end a price would hang over his head. She, Princess of Graustark, had offered a reward for him. For that reason he was always to be a fugitive, and she least of all could hope to see him. There had been a brief, happy dream, but it was swept away by the unrelenting rush of reality. The mere fact that she, and she alone, was responsible for his flight placed between them an unsurmountable barrier.

Clinging tenaciously to her purpose, she was still cognizant of the debt she owed the trusting, loving people of Graustark. One word from her could avert the calamity that was to fall with the dawn of the fatal twentieth. All Graustark blindly trusted and adored her; to undeceive them would be to administer a shock from which they could never recover.

Her heart was bursting with love for Lorry; her mind was overflowing with tender thoughts that could not be sent to him, much as she trusted to the honor of Quinnox, her messenger. Hour after hour she sat in her window and marveled at the change that had been wrought in her life by this strong American, her eyes fixed on the faraway monastery, her heart still and cold and fearful. She had no confidant in this miserable affair of the heart. Others, near and dear, had surmised, but no word of hers confirmed. A diffidence, strange and proud, forbade the confession of her frailty, sweet, pure and womanly though it was. She could not forget that she was a Princess.

The Countess Dagmar was piqued by her reticence and sought in manifold ways to draw forth the voluntary avowal, with its divine tears and blushes. Harry Anguish, who spent much of his time at the castle and who invariably deserted his guards at the portals, was as eager as the Countess to have her commit herself irretrievably by word or sign, but he, too, was disappointed. He was, also, considerably puzzled. Her Highness's manner was at all times frank and untroubled. She was apparently light-hearted; her cheeks had lost none of their freshness; her eyes were bright; her smile was quick and merry; her wit unclouded. Receptions, drawing-rooms and state functions found her always vivacious, so much so that her Court wondered not a little. Daily reports brought no news of the fugitive, but while others were beginning to acquire the haggard air of worry and uncertainty, she was calmly resigned. The fifteenth, the sixteenth, the seventeenth, the eighteenth and now the nineteenth of November came and still the Princess revealed no marked sign of distress. Could they have seen her in the privacy of her chamber on those dreary, maddening nights they would not have known their sovereign.

Heavy-hearted and with bowed heads the people of Graustark saw the nineteenth fade in the night, the breaking of which would bring the crush of pride, the end of power. At court there was the silent dread and the dying hope that relief might come at the last hour. Men, with pale faces and tearful eyes, wandered through the ancient castle, speechless, nerveless, miserable. Brave soldiers crept about, shorn of pride and filled with woe. Citizens sat and stared aimlessly for hours, thinking of naught but the disaster so near at hand and so unavoidable. The whole nation surged as if in the last throes of death. To-morrow the potency of Graustark was to die, its domain was to be cleft in twain,—disgraced before the world.

And, on the throne of this afflicted land sat the girl, proud, tender, courageous Yetive. To all Graustark she was its greatest, its most devoted sufferer; upon her the blow fell heaviest. There she sat, merciful and merciless, her slim white hand ready to sign the shameful deed in transfer, ready to sell her kingdom for her love. Beneath her throne, beneath her feet, cowered six souls, possessors of the secret. Of all the people in the world they alone knew the heart of the Princess Yetive, they alone felt with her the weight of the sacrifice. With wistful eyes, fainting hearts and voiceless lips five of them watched the day approach, knowing that she would not speak and that Graustark was doomed. Loyal conspirators against that which they loved better than their lives—their country—were Dangloss, Quinnox, Allode, Ogbot and Dagmar. To-morrow would see the north torn from the south, the division of families, the rending of homes, the bursting of hearts. She sanctioned all this because she loved him and because he had done no wrong.

Aware of her financial troubles and pursuing the advantage that his rival's death had opened to him, Prince Gabriel, of Dawsbergen, renewed his ardent suit. Scarce had the body of the murdered Prince left the domain before he made his presence marked. She was compelled to receive his visits, distasteful as they were, but she would not hear his propositions. Knowing that he was in truth the mysterious Michael who had planned her abduction, she feared and despised him, yet dared make no public denunciation. As Dawsbergen was too powerful to be antagonized at this critical time, she was constantly forced to submit to the most trying and repulsive of ordeals. Tact and policy were required to control the violent, hot-blooded young ruler from the south. At times she despaired and longed for the quiet of the tomb; at other times she was consumed by the fires of resentment, rebelling against the ignominy to which she was subjected. Worse than all to her were the insolent overtures of Gabriel. How she endured she could not tell. The tears of humiliation shed after his departure on the occasion of each visit revealed the bitterness that was torturing this proud martyr.

He had come at once to renew his offer of a loan, knowing her helplessness. Day after day he haunted the castle, persistent in his efforts to induce her to accept his proposition. So fierce was his passion, so implacable his desire, that he went among the people of Edelweiss, presenting to them his proposal, hoping thereby to add public feeling to his claims. He tried to organize a committee of citizens to go before the Princess with the petition that his offer be accepted and the country saved. But Graustark was loyal to its Princess. Not one of her citizens listened to the wily Prince, and more than one told him or his emissaries that the loss of the whole kingdom was preferable to the marriage he desired. The city sickened at the thought.

His last and master-stroke in the struggle to persuade came on the afternoon of the nineteenth, at an hour when all Edelweiss was in gloom and when the Princess was taxed to the point where the mask of courage was so frail that she could scarce hide her bleeding soul behind it.

Bolaroz of Axphain, to quote from the news-despatch, was in Edelweiss, a guest, with a few of his lords, in the castle. North of the city were encamped five thousand men. He had come prepared to cancel the little obligation of fifteen years standing. With the hated creditor in the castle, his influence hovering above the town, the populace distracted by the thoughts of the day to come, Gabriel played what he considered his best card. He asked for and obtained a final interview with Yetive, not in her boudoir or her reception room, but in the throne room, where she was to meet Bolaroz in the morning.

The Princess, seated on her throne, awaited the approach of the resourceful, tenacious suitor. He came and behind him strode eight stalwart men, bearing a long iron-bound chest, the result of his effort with his bankers. Yetive and her nobles looked in surprise on this unusual performance. Dropping to his knee before the throne, Gabriel said, his voice trembling slightly with eagerness and fear:

“Your Highness, to-morrow will see the turning point in the history of two, possibly three nations—Graustark, Axphain and Dawsbergen. I have included my own land because its ruler is most vitally interested. He would serve and save Graustark, as you know, and he would satisfy Axphain. It is in my power to give you aid at this last, trying hour, and I implore you to listen to my words of sincerest friendship,—yes, adoration. To-morrow you are to pay to Prince Bolaroz over twenty-five million gavvos or relinquish the entire north half of your domain. I understand the lamentable situation. You can raise no more than fifteen millions and you are helpless. He will grant no extension of time. You know what I have proffered before. I come to-day to repeat my friendly offer and to give unquestioned bond as to my ability to carry it out. If you agree to accept the loan I extend, ten million gavvos for fifteen years at the usual rate of interest, you can on to-morrow morning place in the hand of Axphain when he makes his formal demand the full amount of your indebtedness in gold. Ricardo, open the chest!”

An attendant threw open the lid of the chest. It was filled with gold coins.

“This box contains one hundred thousand gavvos. There are in your halls nine boxes holding nine times as much as you see here. And there are nine times as much all told on the way. This is an evidence of my good faith. Here is the gold. Pay Bolaroz and owe Gabriel, the greatest happiness that could come to him.”

There was a dead silence after this theatrical action.

“The interest on this loan is not all you ask, I understand,” said Halfont, slowly, his black eyes glittering. “You ask something that Graustark cannot and will not barter—the hand of its Sovereign. If you are willing to make this loan, naming a fair rate of interest, withdrawing your proposal of marriage, we can come to an agreement.”

Gabriel's eyes deadened with disappointment, his breast heaved and his fingers twitched.

“I have the happiness of your Sovereign at heart as much as my own,” he said. “She shall never want for devotion, she shall never know a pain.”

“You are determined, then, to adhere to your original proposition?” demanded the Count.

“She would have married Lorenz to save her land, to protect her people. Am I not as good as Lorenz? Why not give—” began Gabriel, viciously, but Yetive arose, and, with gleaming eyes and flushing cheeks, interrupted him.

“Go! I will not hear you—not one word!”

He passed from the room without another word. Her Court saw her standing straight and immovable, her white face transfigured.

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