THE VISITOR AT MIDNIGHT
Below the castle and its distressed occupants, in a dark, damp little
room, Grenfall Lorry lived a year in a day. On the night of the
eighteenth, or rather near the break of dawn on the nineteenth, Captain
Quinnox guided him from the dangerous streets of Edelweiss to the secret
passage, and he was safe for the time being. The entrance to the passage
was through a skillfully hidden opening in the wall that enclosed the
park. A stone doorway, so cleverly constructed that it defied detection,
led to a set of steps which, in turn, took one to a long narrow passage.
This ended in a stairway fully a quarter of a mile from its beginning.
Ascending this stairway one came to a secret panel, through which, by
pressing a spring, the interior of the castle was reached. The location of
the panel was in one of the recesses in the wall of the chapel, near the
altar. It was in this chapel that Yetive exchanged her male attire for a
loose gown, weeks before, and the servant who saw her come from the door
at an unearthly hour in the morning believed she had gone there to seek
surcease from the troubles which oppressed her.
Lorry was impatient to rush forth from his place of hiding and to end all
suspense, but Quinnox demurred. He begged the eager American to remain in
the passage until the night of the nineteenth, when, all things going
well, he might be so fortunate as to reach the Princess without being
seen. It was the secret hope of the guilty captain that his charge could
be induced by the Princess to return to the monastery, to avoid
complications. He promised to inform Her Highness of his presence in the
underground room and to arrange for a meeting. The miserable fellow could
not find courage to confess his disobedience to his trusting mistress.
Many times during the day she had seen him hovering near, approaching and
then retreating, and had wondered not a little at his peculiar manner.
And so it was that Lorry chafed and writhed through a long day of suspense
and agony. Quinnox had brought to the little room some candles, food and
bedding, but he utilized only the former. The hours went by and no summons
called him to her side. He was dying with the desire to hold her in his
arms and to hear her voice again. Pacing to and fro like a caged animal,
he recalled the ride in West Virginia, the scene in her bed chamber, the
day in the throne room and, more delicious than all, the trip to the
monastery. In his dreams, waking or sleeping, he had seen the slim
soldier, had heard the muffled voice, and had felt the womanly caresses.
His brain now was in a whirl, busy with thoughts of love and fear,
distraught with anxiety for her and for himself, bursting with the awful
consequences of the hour that was upon them. What was to become of him?
What was to be the end of this drama? What would the night, the morrow
He looked back and saw himself as he was a year ago in Washington, before
she came into his life, and then wondered if it could ready be he who was
going through these strange, improbable scenes, these sensations. It was
nine o'clock in the evening when Quinnox returned to the little room. The
waiting one had looked at his watch a hundred times, had run insanely up
and down the passage in quest of the secret exit, had shouted aloud in the
frenzy of desperation.
“Have you seen her?” he cried, grasping the new-comer's hand.
“I have, but, before God, I could not tell her what I had done. Your visit
will be a surprise, I fear a shock.”
“Then how am I to see her? Fool! Am I to wait here forever—”
“Have patience! I will take you to her tonight—aye, within an hour.
To-morrow morning she signs away the northern provinces and her
instructions are that she is not to be disturbed to-night. Not even will
she see the Countess Dagmar after nine o'clock. It breaks my heart to see
the sorrow that abounds in the castle to-night. Her Highness insists on
being alone and Bassot, the new guard, has orders to admit no one to her
apartments. He is ill and I have promised that a substitute shall relieve
him at eleven o'clock. You are to be the substitute. Here is a part of an
old uniform of mine, and here is a coat that belonged to Dannox, who was
about your size. Please exchange the clothes you now have on for these. I
apprehend no trouble in reaching her door, for the household is in gloom
and the halls seem barren of life.”
He threw the bundle on a chair and Lorry at once proceeded to don the
contents. In a very short time he wore, instead of the cell keeper's
garments, a neat-fitting uniform of the royal guard. He was trembling
violently, chilled to the bone with nervousness, as they began the ascent
of the stairs leading to the chapel. The crisis in his life, he felt, was
near at hand.
Under the stealthy hand of Quinnox the panel opened and they listened
intently for some moments. There was no one in the dimly-lighted chapel,
so they made their way to the door at the opposite end. The great organ
looked down upon them and Lorry expected every instant to hear it burst
forth in sounds of thunder. It seemed alive and watching their movements
reproachfully. Before unlocking the door, the captain pointed to a lance
which stood against the wall near by.
“You are to carry that lance,” he said, briefly. Then he cautiously peered
forth. A moment later they were in the broad hall, boldly striding toward
the distant stairway. Lorry had been instructed to proceed without the
least sign of timidity. They passed several attendants in the hall and
heard Count Halfont's voice in conversation with some one in an ante-room.
As they neared the broad steps who should come tripping down but Harry
Anguish. He saluted Quinnox and walked rapidly down the corridor,
evidently taking his departure after a call on the Countess.
“There goes your hostage,” said the captain, grimly. It had required all
of Lorry's self-possession to restrain the cry of joyful recognition. Up
the staircase they went, meeting several ladies and gentlemen coming down,
and were soon before the apartments of the Princess. A tall guard stood in
front of the boudoir door.
“This is your relief, Bassot. You may go,” said Quinnox, and, with a
careless glance at the strange soldier, the sick man trudged off down the
hall, glad to seek his bed.
“Is she there?” whispered Lorry, dizzy and faint with expectancy.
“Yes. This may mean your death and mine, sir, but you would do it. Will
you explain to her how I came to play her false?”
“She shall know the truth, good friend.”
“After I have gone twenty paces down the hall, do you rap on the door. She
may not admit you at first, but do not give up. If she bid you enter or
asks your mission, enter quickly and close the door. It is unlocked. She
may swoon, or scream, and you must prevent either if possible. In an hour
I shall return and you must go back to the passage.”
“Never! I have come to save her and her country, and I intend to do so by
surrendering myself this very night.”
“I had hoped to dissuade you. But, sir, you cannot do so to-night. You
forget that this visit compromises her.”
“True. I had forgotten. Well, I'll go back with you, but to-morrow I am
your prisoner, not your friend.”
“Be careful,” cautioned the captain as he moved away. Lorry feverishly
tapped his knuckles on the panel of the door and waited with motionless
heart for the response. It came not and he rapped harder, a strange fear
darting into his mind.
“Well?” came from within, the voice he adored.
Impetuous haste marked his next movement. He dashed open the door, sprang
inside and closed it quickly. She was sitting before her escritoire,
writing, and looked up, surprised and annoyed.
“I was not to be disturbed—Oh, God!”
She staggered to her feet and was in his arms before the breath of her
exclamation had died away. Had he not supported her she would have dropped
to the floor. Her hands, her face were like ice, her breast was pulseless
and there was the wildest terror in her eyes.
“My darling—my queen!” he cried, passionately. “At last I am with
you! Don't look at me like that! It is really I—I could not stay
away—I could not permit this sacrifice of yours. Speak to me Do not
stare like that!”
Her wide blue eyes slowly swept his face, piteous wonder and doubt
struggling in their depths.
“Am I awake?” she murmured, touching his face with her bewildered,
questioning hands. “Is it truly you?” A smile illumined her face, but her
joy was short-lived. An expression of terror came to her eyes and there
was agony in the fingers that clasped his arm. “Why do you come here?” she
cried. “It is madness! How and why came you to this room?”
He laughed like a delighted boy and hastily narrated the events of the
past twenty-four hours, ending with the trick that gave him entrance to
“And all this to see me?” she whispered.
“To see you and to save you. I hear that Gabriel has been annoying you and
that you are to give up half of the kingdom to-morrow. Tell me everything.
It is another reason for my coming.”
Sitting beside him on the divan, she told of Gabriel's visit and his
dismissal, the outlook for the next day, and then sought to convince him
of the happiness it afforded her to protect him from an undeserved death.
He obtained for Quinnox the royal pardon and lauded him to the skies. So
ravishing were the moments, so ecstatic the sensations that possessed them
that neither thought of the consequences if he were to be discovered in
her room, disguised as one of her guardsmen. He forgot the real import of
his reckless visit until she commanded him to stand erect before her that
she might see what manner of soldier he was. With a laugh, he leaped to
his feet and stood before her—attention! She leaned back among the
cushions and surveyed him through the glowing, impassioned eyes which
slowly closed as if to shut out temptation.
“You are a perfect soldier,” she said, her lashes parting ever so
“No more perfect than you,” he cried. She remembered, with confusion, her
own masquerading, but it was unkind of him to remember it. Her allusion to
his uniform turned his thoughts into the channel through which they had
been surging so turbulently up to the moment that found him tapping at her
He had not told her of his determination, and the task grew harder as he
saw the sparkle glow brighter and brighter in her eye.
“You are a brave soldier, then,” she substituted. “It required courage to
come to Edelweiss with hundreds of men ready to seize you at sight,—a
pack of bloodhounds.”
“I should have been a miserable coward to stay up there while you are so
bravely facing disaster alone down here. I came to help you, as I should.”
“But you can do nothing, dear, and you only make matters worse by coming
to me. I have fought so hard to overcome the desire to be near you; I have
struggled against myself for days and days, and I had won the battle when
you came to pull my walls of strength down about my ears. Look! On my desk
is a letter I was writing to you. No; you shall not read it! No one shall
ever know what it contains.” She darted to the desk, snatched up the
sheets of paper and held them over the waxed taper. He stood in the middle
of the room, a feeling of intense desolation settling down upon him. How
could he lose this woman?
“To-morrow night Quinnox is to take you from the monastery and conduct you
to a distant city. It has all been planned. Your friend, Mr. Anguish, is
to meet you in three days and you are to hurry to America by way of
Athens. This was a letter to you. In it I said many things and was trying
to write farewell when you came to this room. Do you wonder that I was
overcome with doubt and amazement—yes, and horror? Ach, what peril
you are in here! Every minute may bring discovery and that would mean
death to you. You are innocent, but nothing could save you. The proof is
too strong. Mizrox has found a man who swears he saw you enter Lorenz's
“What a damnable lie!” cried Lorry, lightly. “I was not near his room!”
“But you can see what means they will adopt to convict you. You are doomed
if caught, by my men or theirs. I cannot save you again. You know now that
I love you. I would not give away half of the land that my forefathers
ruled were it not true. Bolaroz would be glad to grant ten years of grace
could he but have you in his clutches. And, to see me, you would run the
risk of undoing all that I have planned, accomplished and suffered for.
Could you not have been content with that last good-by at the monastery?
It is cruel to both of us—to me especially—that we must have
the parting again.” She had gone to the divan and now dropped limply among
the cushions, resting her head on her hand.
“I was determined to see you,” he said. “They shall not kill me nor are
you to sacrifice your father's domain. Worse than all, I feared that you
might yield to Gabriel.”
“Ach! You insult me when you say that! I yielded to Lorenz because I
thought it my duty and because I dared not admit to myself that I loved
you. But Gabriel! Ach!” she cried scornfully. “Grenfall Lorry, I shall
marry no man. You I love, but you I cannot marry. It is folly to dream of
it, even as a possibility. When you go from Graustark tomorrow night you
take my heart, my life, my soul with you. I shall never see you again—God
help me to say this—I shall never allow you to see me again. I tell
you I could not bear it. The weakest and the strongest of God's creations
is woman.” She started suddenly, half rising. “Did any one see you come to
my room? Was Quinnox sure?”
“We passed people, but no one knew me. I will go if you are distressed
over my being here.”
“It is not that—not that. Some spy may have seen you. I have a
strange fear that they suspect me and that I am being watched. Where is
“He said he would return for me in an hour. The time is almost gone. How
it has flown! Yetive, Yetive, I will not give you up!” he cried, sinking
to his knees before her.
“You must—you shall! You must go back to the monastery to-night! Oh
how I pray that you may reach it in safety! And, you must leave this
wretched country at once. Will you see if Quinnox is outside the door? Be
quick! I am mad with the fear that you may be found here—that you
may be taken before you can return to St. Valentine's.”
He arose and stood looking down at the intense face, all aquiver with the
battle between temptation and solicitude.
“I am not going back to St. Valentine's,” he said, slowly.
“But it is all arranged for you to start from there tomorrow. You cannot
escape the city guard except through St. Valentine's.”
“Yetive, has it not occurred to you that I may not wish to escape the city
“May not wish to escape the—what do you mean?” she cried,
“I am not going to leave Edelweiss, dearest. It is my intention to
surrender myself to the authorities.”
She gazed at him in horror for a moment and then fell back with a low
“For God's sake, do not say that!” she wailed. “I forbid you to think of
it. You cannot do this after all I have done to save you. Ach, you are
jesting; I should have known.”
He sat down and drew her to his side. Some moments passed before he could
“I cannot and will not permit you to make such a sacrifice for me. The
proposition of Bolaroz is known to me. If you produce me for trial you are
to have a ten years' extension. My duty is plain. I am no cowardly
criminal, and I am not afraid to face my accusers. At the worst, I can die
“Die but once,” she repeated, as if in a dream.
“I came here to tell you of my decision, to ask you to save your lands,
protect your people, and to remember that I would die a thousand times to
serve you and yours.”
“After all I have done—after all I have done,” she murmured,
piteously. “No, no! You shall not! You are more to me than all my kingdom,
than all the people in the world. You have made me love you, you have
caused me to detest the throne which separates us, you have made me pray
that I might be a pauper, but you shall not force me to destroy the mite
of hope that lingers in my heart. You shall not crush the hope that there
may be a—a—some day!”
“A some day? Some day when you will be mine?” he cried.
“I will not say that, but, for my sake,—for my sake,—go away
from this place. Save yourself! You are all I have to live for.” Her arms
were about his neck and her imploring words went to his heart like great
thrusts of pain.
“You forget the thousands who love and trust you. Do they deserve to be
“No, no,—ach, God, how I have suffered because of them! I have
betrayed them, have stolen their rights and made them a nation of beggars.
But I would not, for all this nation, have an innocent man condemned—nor
could my people ask that of me. You cannot dissuade me. It must be as I
wish. Oh, why does not Quinnox come for you!” She arose and paced the
He was revolving a selfish, cowardly capitulation to love and injustice,
when a sharp tap was heard at the door. Leaping to his feet he whispered:
“Quinnox! He has come for me. Now to get out of your room without being
The Princess Yetive ran to him, and, placing her hands on his shoulders,
cried with the fierceness of despair:
“You will go back to the monastery? You will leave Graustark? For my sake—for
He hesitated and then surrendered, his honor falling weak and faint by the
pathway of passion.
“Yes!” he cried, hoarsely.
Tap! tap! tap! at the door. Lorry took one look at the rapturous face and
“Come!” she called.
The door flew open, an attendant saluted, and in stepped—Gabriel!