THE INVITATION EXTENDED
They were called by the porter early the next morning. The train was
pulling into Washington, five hours late. Grenfall wondered, as he
dressed, whether fortune would permit him to see much of her during her
brief day in the capital. He dreamed of a drive over the avenues, a trip
to the monument, a visit to the halls of congress, an inspection of public
buildings, a dinner at his mother's home, luncheon at the Ebbitt, and
other attentions which might give to him every moment of her day in
Washington. But even as he dreamed, he was certain that his hopes could
not be gratified.
After the train had come to a standstill he could hear the rustle of her
garments in the next compartment. Then he heard her sweep into the
passage, greet her uncle and aunt, utter a few commands to the maid, and,
while he was adjusting his collar and necktie, pass from the car. No man
ever made quicker time in dressing than did Lorry. She could hardly have
believed him ideal had she seen his scowling face or heard the words that
hissed through his impatient teeth.
“She'll get away, and that'll be the end of it,” he growled, seizing his
traps and rushing from the train two minutes after her departure. The
porter attempted to relieve him of his bags on the platform, but he
brushed him aside and was off toward the station.
“Nice time for you, to call a man, you idiot,” was his parting shot for
the porter, forgetting of course, that the foreigners had been called at
the same time. With eyes intent on the crowd ahead, he plunged along,
seeing nobody in his disappointed flight. “I'll never forgive myself if I
miss her,” he was wailing to himself. She was not to be seen in the
waiting rooms, so he rushed to the sidewalk.
“Go to the devil—yes, here! Take these traps and these checks and
rush my stuff to No.——, W—— Avenue. Trunks just in
on B.& O.,” he cried, tossing his burdens to a transfer man and giving
him the checks so quickly that the fellow's sleepy eyes opened wider than
they had been for a month. Relieved of his impedimenta, he returned to the
“Good morning, Mr. Lorry. Are you in too much of a hurry to see your
friends?” cried a clear, musical voice, and he stopped as if shot. The
anxious frown flew from his brow and was succeeded instantaneously by a
glad smile. He wheeled and beheld her, with Aunt Yvonne, standing near the
main entrance to the station. “Why, good morning,” he exclaimed, extending
his hand gladly. To his amazement she drew herself up haughtily and
ignored the proffered hand. Only for a brief second did this strange and
uncalled—for hauteur obtain. A bright smile swept over her face, and
her repentant fingers sought his timidly, even awkwardly. Something told
him that she was not accustomed to handshaking; that same something
impelled him to bend low and touch the gloved fingers with his lips. He
straightened, with face flushed, half fearful lest his act had been
observed by curious loungers, and he had taken a liberty in a public place
which could not be condoned. But she smiled serenely, approvingly. There
was not the faintest sign of embarrassment or confusion in the lovely
face. Any other girl in the world, he thought, would have jerked her hand
away and giggled furiously. Aunt Yvonne inclined her head slightly, but
did not proffer her hand. He wisely refrained from extending his own. “I
thought you had left the station,” he said.
“We are waiting for Uncle Caspar, who is giving Hedrick instructions.
Hedrick, you know, is to go on to New York with our boxes. He will have
them aboard ship when we arrive there. All that we have with us is hand
luggage. We leave Washington to-night.”
“I had hoped you might stay over for a few days.”
“It is urgent business that compels us to leave so hastily, Mr. Lorry. Of
all the cities in the world, I have most desired to see the capital of
your country. Perhaps I may return some day. But do not let us detain you,
if you are in a hurry.”
He started, looked guilty, stammered something about baggage, said he
would return in a moment, and rushed aimlessly away, his ears fiery.
“I'm all kinds of a fool,” he muttered, as he raced around the
baggage-room and then back to where he had left the two ladies. Mr.
Guggenslocker had joined them and they were preparing to depart. Miss
Guggenslocker's face expressed pleasure at seeing him.
“We thought you would never return, so long were you gone,” she cried,
gaily. He had been gone just two minutes by the watch! The old gentleman
greeted him warmly, and Lorry asked them to what hotel they were going. On
being informed that they expected to spend the day at the Ebbitt, he
volunteered to accompany them, saying that he intended to breakfast there.
Quicker than a flash a glance, unfathomable as it was brief, passed
between the three, not quickly enough, however, to escape his keen,
watchful eyes, on the alert since the beginning of his acquaintance with
them, in conjunction with his ears, to catch something that might satisfy,
in a measure, his burning curiosity. What was the meaning of that glance?
It half angered him, for in it he thought he could distinguish annoyance,
apprehension, dismay or something equally disquieting. Before he could
stiffen his long frame and give vent to the dignified reconsideration that
flew to his mind, the young lady dispelled all pain and displeasure,
sending him into raptures, by saying:
“How good of you! We shall be so delighted to have you breakfast with us,
Mr. Lorry, if it is convenient for you. You can talk to us of your
wonderful city. Now, say that you will be good to us; stay your hunger and
neglect your personal affairs long enough to give us these early morning
hours. I am sure we cannot trouble you much longer.”
He expostulated gallantly and delightedly, and then hurried forth to call
a cab. At eight o'clock he breakfasted with them, his infatuation growing
deeper and stronger as he sat for the hour beneath the spell of those
eyes, the glorious face, the sweet, imperial air that was a part of her,
strange and unaffected. As they were leaving the dining-room he asked her
if she would not drive with him.
His ardent gallantry met with a surprising rebuke. The conversation up to
that moment had been bright and cheery, her face had been the constant
reflector of his own good spirits, and he had every reason in the world to
feel that his suggestion would be received with pleasure. It was a shock
to him, therefore, to see the friendly smile fade from her eyes and a
disdainful gleam succeed it. Her voice, a moment ago sweet and affable,
changed its tone instantly to one so proud and arrogant that he could
scarcely believe his ears.
“I shall be engaged during the entire day, Mr. Lorry,” she said, slowly,
looking him fairly in the eyes with cruel positiveness. Those eyes of his
were wide with surprise and the glowing gleam of injured pride. His lips
closed tightly; little red spots flew to his cheeks and then disappeared,
leaving his face white and cold; his heart throbbed painfully with the
mingled emotions of shame and anger. For a moment he dared not speak.
“I have reason to feel thankful that you are to be engaged,” he said at
last, calmly, without taking his eyes from hers. “I am forced to believe,
much to my regret, that I have offended when I intended to please. You
will pardon my temerity.”
There was no mistaking the resentment in his voice or the glitter in his
eyes. Impulsively her little hand was stretched forth, falling upon his
arm, while into her eyes came again the soft glow and to her lips the most
pathetic, appealing smile, the forerunner of a pretty plea for
forgiveness. The change startled and puzzled him more than ever. In one
moment she was unreasonably rude and imperious, in the next gracious and
“Forgive me,” she cried, the blue eyes battling bravely against the steel
in the grey ones above. “I was so uncivil! Perhaps I cannot make you
understand why I spoke as I did, but, let me say, I richly deserved the
rebuke. Pray forgive me and forget that I have been disagreeable. Do not
ask me to tell you why I was so rude to you just now, but overlook my
unkind treatment of your invitation. Please, Mr. Lorry, I beg of you—I
beg for the first time in my life. You have been so good to me; be good to
His wrath melted away like snow before the sunshine. How could he resist
such an appeal? “I beg for the first time in my life,” whirled in his
brain. What did she mean by that?
“I absolve the penitent,” he said, gravely.
“I thank you. You are still my ideal American—courteous, bold and
gentle. I do not wonder that Americans can be masterful men. And now I
thank you for your invitation, and ask you to let me withdraw my implied
refusal. If you will take me for the drive, I shall be delighted and more
“You make me happy again,” he said, softly, as they drew near the elder
members of the party, who had paused to wait for them. “I shall ask your
uncle and aunt to accompany us.”
“Uncle Caspar will be busy all day, but I am sure my aunt will be charmed.
Aunt Yvonne, Mr. Lorry has asked us to drive with him over the city, and I
have accepted for you. When are we to start, Mr. Lorry?”
Mr. and Mrs. Guggenslocker stared in a bewildered sort of manner at their
niece. Then Aunt Yvonne turned questioning eyes toward her husband, who
promptly bowed low before the tall American and said:
“Your kind offices shall never be forgotten, sir. When are the ladies to
Lorry was weighing in his mind the advisability of asking them to dine in
the evening with his mother, but two objections presented themselves
readily. First, he was afraid of this perverse maid; second, he had not
seen his mother. In fact, he did not know that she was in town.
“At two o'clock, I fancy. That will give us the afternoon. You leave at
nine to-night, do you not?”
“Yes. And will you dine with us this evening?” Her invitation was so
unexpected, in view of all that had happened, that he looked askance.
“Ach, you must not treat my invitation as I did yours!” she cried,
merrily, although he could detect the blush that returns with the
recollection of a reprimand. “You should profit by what I have been
taught.” The girl abruptly threw her arm about her aunt and cried, as she
drew away in the direction of her room: “At two, then, and at dinner this
evening. I bid you good morning, Mr. Lorry.”
The young man, delighted with the turn of affairs, but dismayed by what
seemed a summary dismissal, bowed low. He waited until the strange trio
entered the elevator and then sauntered downstairs, his hands in his
pockets, his heart as light as air. Unconsciously he jingled the coins. A
broad smile came over his face as he drew forth a certain piece. Holding
it between his thumb and forefinger he said:
“You are what it cost her to learn my name, are you? Well, my good fellow,
you may be very small, but you bought something that looks better than
Guggenslocker on a hotel register. Your mistress is an odd bit of
humanity, a most whimsical bit, I must say. First, she's no and then she's
yes. You're lucky, my coin, to have fallen into the custody of one who
will not give you over to the mercy of strangers for the sake of a whim.
You are now retired on a pension, well deserved after valiant service in
the cause of a most capricious queen.”
In an hour he was at home and relating to his mother the story of his
wanderings, neglecting, for reasons best known to himself, the events
which occurred after Denver had been left behind, except for a casual
allusion to “a party of foreigners.” At one o'clock, faultlessly attired,
he descended to the brougham, telling Mrs. Lorry that he had invited some
strangers to see the city. On the way downtown he remembered that he was
in business, the law business—and that it would be well to drop in
and let his uncle know he was in the city. On second thought, however, he
concluded it was too near two o'clock to waste any time on business, so
the office did not know that he was in town until the next day, and then
to no great extent.
For several hours he reveled in her society, sitting beside her in that
roomy brougham, Aunt Yvonne opposite, explaining to her the many places of
interest as they passed. They entered the Capitol; they saw the White
House, and, as they were driving back to the hotel, passed the President
of the United States.
Miss Guggenslocker, when informed that the President's carriage was
approaching, relaxed gracefully from the stately reserve that had been
puzzling him, and revealed an eager curiosity. Her eyes fastened
themselves upon the President, Lorry finding entertainment in the changes
that came over her unconscious face. Instead of noting the veneration he
had expected, he was astonished and somewhat provoked to see a slight curl
of disgust at the corners of her mouth, a pronounced disappointment in her
eyes. Her face expressed ridicule, pure and simple, and, he was shocked to
observe, the exposure was unconscious, therefore sincere.
“You do not like our ruler?” he said, as the carriage whirled by. He was
returning his hat to his head as he spoke.
“I cannot say. I do not know him,” she replied, a tinge of sarcasm in her
voice. “You Americans have one consolation; when you tire of a ruler you
can put another in his place. Is it not wise to do so quite often?”
“I don't think wise is the word. Expedient is better. I am to infer that
you have no politics.”
“One house has ruled our land for centuries. Since I came to your land I
have not once seen a man wave his hat with mad adulation and cry from his
heart: 'Long live the President!' For centuries, in my country, every
child has been born with the words: 'Long live the Prince!' in his heart,
and he learns to say them next after the dear parental words are mastered.
'Long live the Prince!' 'Long live the Princess!' are tributes of love and
honor that greet our rulers from birth to death. We are not fickle, and we
have no politics.”
“Do your rulers hear tin horns, brass bands, campaign yells, firecrackers
and stump speeches every four years? Do they know what it means to be the
voluntary choice of a whole nation? Do they know what it is to rule
because they have won the right and not because they were born to it? Has
there ever been a homage-surfeited ruler in your land who has known the
joy that comes with the knowledge that he has earned the right to be
cheered from one end of the country to the other? Is there not a
difference between your hereditary 'Long live the Prince' and our wild,
enthusiastic, spontaneous 'Hurrah for Cleveland!' Miss Guggenslocker? All
men are equal at the beginning in our land. The man who wins the highest
gift that can be bestowed by seventy millions of people is the man who had
brains and not title as a birthright.” He was a bit exasperated.
“There! I have displeased you again. You must pardon my antiquated ideas.
We, as true and loyal subjects of a good sovereign, cannot forget that our
rulers are born, not made. Perhaps we are afflicted at times with
brainless monarchs and are to be pitied. You are generous in your
selection of potentates, be generous, then, with me, a benighted royalist,
who craves leniency of one who may some day be President of the United
“Granted, without discussion. As possible, though not probable, President
of the United States, I am magnanimous to an unfortunate who can never
hope to be princess, no matter how well she might grace the gilded
She greeted this glowing remark with a smile so intoxicating that he felt
himself the most favored of men. He saw that smile in his mind's eye for
months afterward, that maddening sparkle of joy, which flashed from her
eyes to the very bottom of his heart, there to snuggle forever with
Memory's most priceless treasures. Their dinner was but one more phase of
this fascinating dream. More than once he feared that he was about to
awake to find bleak unhappiness where exquisite joy had reigned so
gloriously. As it drew to an end a sense of depression came over him. An
hour at most was all that he could have with her. Nine o'clock was drawing
nigh with its regrets, its longings, its desolation. He determined to
retain the pleasures of the present until, amid the clanging of bells and
the roll of car wheels, the dismal future began. His intention to
accompany them to the station was expressed as they were leaving the
table. She had begun to say good-by to him when he interrupted,
self-consciousness forcing the words hurriedly and disjointedly from his
“You will let me go to the station with you. I shall—er—deem
it a pleasure.”
She raised her eyebrows slightly, but thanked him and said she would
consider it an honor. His face grew hot and his heart cold with the fancy
that there was in her eyes a gleam which said: “I pity you, poor fellow.”
Notwithstanding his strange misgiving and the fact that his pride had
sustained quite a perceptible shock, he drove with them to the station.
They went to the sleeping car a few minutes before the time set for the
train's departure, and stood at the bottom of the steps, uttering the
good-bys, the God-speeds and the sincere hope that they might meet again.
Then came the sharp activity of the trainmen, the hurry of belated
passengers. He glanced soberly at his watch.
“It is nine o'clock. Perhaps you would better get aboard,” he said, and
proceeded to assist Aunt Yvonne up the steps. She turned and pressed his
hand gently before passing into the car.
“Adieu, good friend. You have made it so very pleasant for us,” she said,
The tall, soldierly old gentleman was waiting to assist his niece into the
“Go first, Uncle Caspar,” the girl made Lorry happy by saying. “I can
easily come up unaided.”
“Or I can assist her,” Lorry hastened to add, giving her a grateful look
which she could not misunderstand. The uncle shook hands warmly with the
young man and passed up the steps. She was following when Lorry cried,
“Will you not allow me?”
She laughingly turned to him from the steps and stretched forth her hand.
“And now it is good-by forever. I am so sorry that I have not seen more of
you,” she said. He took her hand and held it tightly for a moment.
“I shall never forget the past few days,” he said, a thrill in his voice.
“You have put something into my life that can never be taken away. You
will forget me before you are out of Washington, but I—I shall
always see you as you are now.”
She drew her hand away gently, but did not take her eyes from his upturned
“You are mistaken. Why should I forget you—ever? Are you not the
ideal American whose name I bought? I shall always remember you as I saw
“Not as I have been since?” he cried.
“Have you changed since first I saw you?” she asked, quaintly.
“I have, indeed, for you saw me before I saw you. I am glad I have not
changed for the worse in your eyes.”
“As I first knew you with my eyes I will say that they are trustworthy,”
she said tantalizingly.
“I do not mean that I have changed externally.”
“In any other case my eyes would not serve,” she cried, with mock
disappointment. “Still,” she added, sweepingly, “you are my ideal
American. Good-by! The man has called 'all aboard!'”
“Good-by!” he cried, swinging up on the narrow step beside her. Again he
clasped her hand as she drew back in surprise. “You are going out of my
land, but not out of my mind. If you wish your eyes to see the change in
me, you have only to look at them in a mirror. They are the change—they
themselves! Goodby! I hope that I may see you again.”
She hesitated an instant, her eyes wavering beneath his. The train was
moving slowly now.
“I pray that we may meet,” she said, softly, at last,—so softly that
he barely heard the words. Had she uttered no sound he could have been
sure of her response, for it was in her telltale eyes. His blood leaped
madly. “You will be hurt if you wait till the train is running at full
speed,” she cried, suddenly returning to the abandoned merry mood. She
pushed him gently in her excitement. “Don't you see how rapidly we are
moving? Please go!” There was a terror in her eyes that pleased him.
“Good-by, then,” he cried.
“Adieu, my American,” she cried quickly.
As he swung out, ready to drop to the ground, she said, her eyes sparkling
with something that suggested mischief, her face more bewitching than ever
under the flicker of the great arc lights:
“You must come to Edelweiss to see me. I shall expect you!” He thought
there was a challenge in the tones. Or was it mockery?
“I will, by heaven, I will!” he exclaimed.
A startled expression flashed across her face, and her lips parted as if
in protestation. As she leaned forward, holding stoutly to the hand-rail,
there was no smile on her countenance.
A white hand fluttered before his eyes, and she was gone. He stood, hat in
hand, watching the two red lights at the end of the train until they were
lost in the night.