“BECAUSE I LOVE HIM”
The next morning Edelweiss was astir early. Great throngs of people
flocked the streets long before the hour set for the signing of the decree
that was to divide the north from the south. There were men and women from
the mountains, from the southern valleys, from the plains to the north and
east. Sullen were the mutterings, threatening the faces, resentful the
hearts of those who crowded the shops, the public places and the streets.
Before nine o'clock the great concourse of people began to push toward the
castle. Castle Avenue was packed with the moving masses. Thousands upon
thousands of this humbled race gathered outside the walls, waiting for
news from the castle with the spark of hope that does not die until the
very end, nursing the possibility that something might intervene at the
last moment to save the country from disgrace and ruin.
A strong guard was required to keep the mob back from the gates, and the
force of men on the wall had been quadrupled. Business in the city was
suspended. The whole nation, it seemed, stood before the walls, awaiting,
with bated breath and dismal faces, the announcement that Yetive had
deeded to Bolaroz the lands and lives of half of her subjects. The
northern plainsmen who were so soon to acknowledge Axphain sovereignty,
wept and wailed over their unhappy lot. Brothers and sisters from the
south cursed and moaned in sympathy.
Shortly before nine o'clock, Harry Anguish, with his guard of six, rode up
to the castle. Captain Dangloss was beside him on his gray charger. They
had scarcely passed inside the gates when a cavalcade of mounted men came
riding up the avenue from the Hotel Regengetz. Then the howling, the
hissing, the hooting began. Maledictions were hurled at the heads of
Axphain noblemen as they rode between the maddened lines of people. They
smiled sardonically in reply to the impotent signs of hatred, but they
were glad when the castle gates closed between them and the vast,
despairing crowd, in which the tempest of revolt was brewing with
Prince Bolaroz, the Duke of Mizrox and the ministers were already in the
castle and had been there since the previous afternoon. In the royal
palace the excitement was intense, but it was of the subdued kind that
strains the nerves to the point where control is martyrdom.
When the attendants went to the bed chamber of the Princess at seven
o'clock, as was their wont, they found, to their surprise, no one standing
The Princess was not in her chamber, nor had she been there during the
night. The bed was undisturbed. In some alarm the two women ran to her
parlor, then to the boudoir. Here they found her asleep on the divan,
attired in the gown she had worn since the evening before, now crumpled
and creased, the proof positive of a restless, miserable night.
Her first act after awakening and untangling the meshes in her throbbing,
uncomprehending brain, was to send for Quinnox. She could scarcely wait
for his appearance and the assurance that Lorry was safely out of danger.
The footman who had been sent to fetch the captain was a long time in
returning. She was dressed in her breakfast gown long before he came in
with the report that the captain was nowhere to be found. Her heart gave a
great throb of joy. She alone could explain his absence. To her it meant
but one thing: Lorry's flight from the castle. Where else could Quinnox be
except with the fugitive, perhaps once more inside St. Valentine's? With
the great load of suspense off her mind she cared not for the trials that
still confronted her on that dreaded morning. She had saved him, and she
was willing to pay the price.
Preparations began at once for the eventful transaction in the throne
room. The splendor of two Courts was to shine in rivalry. Ten o'clock was
the hour set for the meeting of the two rulers, the victor and the victim.
Her nobles and her ladies, her ministers, her guards and her lackeys moved
about in the halls, dreading the hour, brushing against the hated Axphain
guests. In one of the small waiting rooms sat the Count and Countess
Halfont, the latter in tears. The young Countess Dagmar stood at a window
with Harry Anguish. The latter was flushed and nervous and acted like a
man who expects that which is unexpected by others. With a strange
confidence in his voice, he sought to cheer his depressed friends, but the
cheerfulness was not contagious. The sombreness of a burial hung over the
Half an hour before the time set for the meeting in the throne room Yetive
sent for her uncle, her aunt and Dagmar. As Anguish and the latter
followed the girl turned her sad, puzzled eyes up to the face of the tall
American and asked:
“Are you rejoicing over our misfortune? You do not show a particle of
regret. Do you forget that we are sacrificing a great deal to save the
life of your friend? I do not understand how you can be so heartless.”
“If you knew what I know you'd jump so high you could crack those pretty
heels of yours together ten times before you touched the floor again,”
said he, warmly.
“Please tell me,” she cried. “I knew there was something.”
“But I am afraid so high a jump would upset you for the day. You must wait
awhile, Dagmar.” It was the first time he had called her Dagmar, and she
“I am not used to waiting,” she said, confusedly.
“I think I can explain satisfactorily when I have more time,” he said,
softly in her ear, and, although she tried, she could find no words to
continue. He left her at the head of the stairs, and did not see her again
until she passed him in the throne room. Then she was pale and brave and
Prince Bolaroz and his nobles stood to the right of the throne, the
Graustark men and women of degree to the left, while near the door, on
both sides were to be seen the leading military men of both
principalities. Near the Duke of Mizrox was stationed the figure of
Gabriel, Prince of Dawsbergen. He had come, with a half dozen followers,
among a crowd of unsuspecting Axphainians, and had taken his position near
the throne. Anguish entered with Baron Dangloss and they stood together
near the doorway, the latter whiter than he had ever been in his life.
Then came the hush of expectancy. The doors swung open, the curtains
parted and the Princess entered.
She was supported by the arm of her tall uncle, Caspar of Halfont. Pages
carried the train of her dress, a jeweled gown of black. As she advanced
to the throne, calm and stately, those assembled bent knee to the fairest
woman the eye ever had looked upon.
The calm, proud exterior hid the most unhappy of hearts. The resolute
courage with which her spirit had been braced for the occasion was
remarkable in more ways than one. Among other inspirations behind the
valiant show was the bravery of a guilty conscience. Her composure
sustained a shock when she passed Allode at the door. That faithful,
heart-broken servitor looked at her face with pleading, horror-struck eyes
as much as to say: “Good God, are you going to destroy Graustark for the
sake of that murderer? Have pity on us—have pity!”
Before taking her seat on the throne, she swept the thrilled assemblage
with her wide blue eyes. There were shadows beneath them and there were
wells of tears behind them. As she looked upon the little knot of
white-faced northern barons, her knees trembled and her heart gave a great
throb of pity. Still the face was resolute. Then she saw Anguish and the
suffering Dangloss; then the accusing, merciless eyes of Gabriel. At sight
of him she started violently and an icy fear crept into her soul.
Instinctively she searched the gorgeous company for the captain of the
guard. Her staunchest ally was not there. Was she to hear the condemning
words alone? Would the people do as Quinnox had prophesied, or would they
believe Gabriel and curse her?
She sank into the great chair and sat with staring, helpless eyes,
deserted and feeble.
At last the whirling brain ended its flight and settled down to the issue
first at hand-the transaction with Bolaroz. Summoning all her
self-control, she said:
“You are come, most noble Bolaroz, to draw from us the price of our
defeat. We are loyal to our compact, as you are to yours, sire. Yet, in
the presence of my people and in the name of mercy and justice, I ask you
to grant us respite. You are rich and powerful, we despoiled and
struggling beneath a weight we can lift and displace if given a few short
years in which to grow and gather strength. At this last hour in the
fifteen years of our indebtedness, I sue in supplication for the leniency
that you can so well accord. It is on the advice of my counsellors that I
put away personal pride and national dignity to make this request,
trusting to your goodness of heart. If you will not hearken to our
petition for a renewal of negotiations, there is but one course open to
Graustark. We can and will pay our debt of honor.”
Bolaroz stood before her, dark and uncompromising. She saw the futility of
“I have not forgotten, most noble petitioner, that you are ruler here, not
I. Therefore I am in no way responsible for the conditions which confront
you, except that I am an honest creditor, come for his honest dues. This
is the twentieth of November. You have had fifteen years to accumulate
enough to meet the requirements of this day. Should I suffer for your
faults? There is in the treaty a provision which applies to an emergency
of this kind. Your inability to liquidate in gold does not prevent the
payment of this honest debt in land, as provided for in the sixth clause
of the agreement. 'All that part of Graustark north of a line drawn
directly from east to west between the provinces of Ganlook and Doswan, a
tract comprising Doswan, Shellotz, Varagan, Oeswald, Sesmai and
Gattabatton.' You have two alternatives, your Highness. Produce the gold
or sign the decree ceding to Axphain the lands stipulated in the treaty. I
can grant no respite.”
“You knew when that treaty was framed that we could raise no such funds in
fifteen years,” said Halfont, forgetting himself in his indignation.
Gaspon and other men present approved his hasty declaration.
“Am I dealing with the Princess of Graustark or with you, sir?” asked
“You are dealing with the people of Graustark, and among the poorest, I. I
will sign the decree. There is nothing to be gained by appealing to you.
The papers, Gaspon, quick! I would have this transaction finished
speedily,” cried the Princess, her cheeks flushing and her eyes glowing
from the flames of a burning conscience. The groan that went up from the
northern nobles cut her like the slash of a knife.
“There was one other condition,” said Bolaroz, hastily, unable to gloat as
he had expected. “The recapture of the assassin who slew my son would have
meant much to Graustark. It is unfortunate that your police department is
so inefficient.” Dangloss writhed beneath this thrust. Yetive's eyes went
to him, for an instant, sorrowfully. Then they dropped to the fatal
document which Gaspon had placed on the table before her. The lines ran
together and were the color of blood. Unconsciously she took the pen in
her nerveless fingers. A deep sob came from the breast of her gray old
uncle, and Gaspon's hand shook like a leaf as he placed the seal of
Graustark on the table, ready for use.
“The assassin's life could have saved you,” went on Bolaroz, a vengeful
glare coming to his eyes.
She looked up and her lips moved as if she would have spoken. No words
came, no breath, it seemed to her. Casting a piteous, hunted glance over
the faces before her, she bent forward and blindly touched the pen to the
paper. The silence was that of death. Before she could make the first
stroke, a harsh voice, in which there was combined triumph and amazement,
broke the stillness like the clanging of a bell.
“Have you no honor?”
The pen dropped from her fingers as the expected condemnation came. Every
eye in the house was turned toward the white, twitching face of Gabriel of
Dawsbergen. He stood a little apart from his friends, his finger pointed
throneward. The Princess stared at the nemesis-like figure for an instant,
as if petrified. Then the pent-up fear crowded everything out of its path.
In sheer desperation, her eyes flashing with the intensity of defiant
guilt, bitter rage welling up against her persecutor, she half arose and
“Who uttered those words? Speak!”
“I, Gabriel of Dawsbergen! Where is the prisoner, madam?” rang out the
“The man is mad!” cried she, sinking back with a shudder.
“Mad, eh? Because I do as I did promise? Behold the queen of perfidy!
Madam, I will be heard. Lorry is in this castle!”
“He is mad!” gasped Bolaroz, the first of the stunned spectators to find
There was a commotion near the door. Voices were heard outside.
“You have been duped!” insisted Gabriel, taking several steps toward the
throne. “Your idol is a traitress, a deceiver! I say he is here! She has
seen him. Let her sign that decree if she dares! I command you, Yetive of
Graustark, to produce this criminal!”
The impulse to crush the defiler was checked by the sudden appearance of
two men inside the curtains.
“He is here!” cried a strong voice, and Lorry, breathless and haggard,
pushed through the astonished crowd, followed by Captain Quinnox, upon
whose ghastly face there were bloodstains.
A shout went up from those assembled, a shout of joy. The faces of
Dangloss and Allode were pictures of astonishment and—it must be
said—relief. Harry Anguish staggered but recovered himself
instantly, and turned his eyes toward Gabriel. That worthy's legs trembled
and his jaw dropped.
“I have the prisoner, your Highness,” said Quinnox, in hoarse, discordant
tones. He stood before the throne with his captive, but dared not look his
mistress in the face. As they stood there the story of the night just
passed was told by the condition of the two men. There had been a struggle
for supremacy in the dungeon and the prisoner had won. The one had tried
to hold the other to the dungeon's safety, after his refusal to leave the
castle, and the other had fought his way to the halls above. It was then
that Quinnox had wit enough to change front and drag his prisoner to the
place which, most of all, he had wished to avoid.
“The prisoner!” shouted the northern nobles, and in an instant the solemn
throne room was wild with excitement.
“Do not sign that decree!” cried some one from a far corner.
“Here is your man, Prince Bolaroz!” cried a baron.
“Quinnox has saved us!” shouted another.
The Princess, white as death and as motionless, sat bolt upright in her
“Oh!” she moaned, piteously, and, clenching her hands, she carried them to
her eyes as if to shut out the sight. The Countess Halfont and Dagmar ran
to her side, the latter frantic with alarm. She knew more than the others.
“Are you the fugitive?” cried Bolaroz.
I am Grenfall Lorry. Are you Bolaroz?'
“The father of the man you murdered. Ah, this is rapture!”
“I have only to say to your Highness, I did not kill your son. I swear it,
so help me God!”
“Your Highness,” cried Bolaroz, stepping to the throne, “destroy that
decree. This brave soldier has saved Graustark. In an hour your ministers
and mine will have drawn up a ten Tears' extension of time, in proper
form, to which my signature shall be gladly attached. I have not forgotten
Yetive straightened suddenly, seized the pen and fiercely began to sign
the decree, in spite of all and before those about her fairly realized her
intention. Lorry understood, and was the first to snatch the document from
her hands. A half-written Yetive, a blot and a long, spluttering scratch
of the pen told how near she had come to signing away the lands of
Graustark, forgetful of the fact that it could be of no benefit to the
prisoner she loved.
“Yetive!” gasped her uncle, in horror.
“She would have signed,” cried Gaspon, in wonder and alarm.
“Yes, I would have signed!” she exclaimed, starting to her feet, strong
and defiant. “I could not have saved his life, perhaps, but I might have
saved him from the cruel injustice that that man's vengeance would have
invented. He is innocent, and I would give my kingdom to stay the wrong
that will be done.”
“What! You defend the dog!” cried Bolaroz. “Seize him, men! I will see
that justice is done. It is no girl he has to deal with now.”
“Stop!” cried the Princess, the command checking the men. Quinnox leaped
in front of his charge. “He is my prisoner, and he shall have justice.
Keep back your soldiery, Prince Bolaroz. It is a girl you have to deal
with. I will say to you all, my people and yours, that I believe him to be
innocent and that I sincerely regret his capture, fortunate as it may be
for us. He shall have a fair and a just trial, and I shall do all in my
power, Prince Bolaroz, to secure his acquittal.”
“Why do you take this stand, Yetive? Why have you tried to shield him?”
cried the heartbroken Halfont.
She drew herself to her full height, and, sweeping the threatening crowd
with a challenge in her eyes, cried, the tones ringing strong and clear
above the growing tumult:
“Because I love him!”
As if by magic the room became suddenly still.
“Behold an honest man. I would have saved him at the cost of my honor.
Scorn me if you will, but listen to this. The man who stands here accused
came voluntarily to this castle, surrendering himself to Captain Quinnox,
that he might, though innocent, stand between us and disaster. He was safe
from our pursuit, yet returned, perhaps to his death. For me, for you and
for Graustark he has done this. Is there a man among you who would have
done as much for his own country? Yet he does this for a country to which
he is stranger. I must commit him to prison once more. But,” she cried in
sudden fierceness, “I promise him now, before the trial, a royal pardon.
Do I make my meaning clear to you, Prince Bolaroz?”
The white lips of the old Prince could frame no reply to this daring
“Be careful whet you say, your Highness,” cried the prisoner, hastily. “I
must refuse to accept a pardon at the cost of your honor. It is because I
love you better than my life that I stand here. I cannot allow you and
your people to suffer when it is in my power to prevent it. All that I can
ask is fairness and justice. I am not guilty, and God will protect me.
Prince Bolaroz, I call upon you to keep your promise. I am not the slayer
of your son, but I am the man you would send to the block, guilty or
As he spoke, the Princess dropped back in the chair, her rash courage
gone. A stir near the doorway followed his concluding sentence, and the
other American stepped forward, his face showing his excitement.
“Your Highness,” he said, “I should have spoken sooner. My lips were
parted and ready to cry out when Prince Gabriel interposed and prevented
the signing of the decree. Grenfall Lorry did not kill the young Prince. I
can produce the guilty man!”