A B C D E F
G H I J K L M 

Total read books on site:
more than 10 000

You can read its for free!


Text on one page: Few Medium Many
E-text prepared by Al Haines


Note: Project also has an HTML version of this
file which includes the original illustration.
See 17391-h.htm or 17391-h.zip:
(http://www..net/dirs/1/7/3/9/17391/17391-h/17391-h.htm)
or
(http://www..net/dirs/1/7/3/9/17391/17391-h.zip)





THE PRINCESS ELOPES

by

HAROLD MACGRATH

Author of The Puppet Crown, The Grey Cloak, The Man on the Box

With Illustration by Harrison Fisher







[Frontispiece: Princess Hildegarde (Gretchen) playing the piano.]




New York
Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers
Copyright 1905
The Bobbs-Merrill Company





TO MY WIFE





THE PRINCESS ELOPES


I

It is rather difficult in these days for a man who takes such scant
interest in foreign affairs--trust a whilom diplomat for that!--to
follow the continual geographical disturbances of European surfaces.
Thus, I can not distinctly recall the exact location of the Grand Duchy
of Barscheit or of the neighboring principality of Doppelkinn. It
meets my needs and purposes, however, to say that Berlin and Vienna
were easily accessible, and that a three hours' journey would bring you
under the shadow of the Carpathian Range, where, in my diplomatic days,
I used often to hunt the "bear that walks like a man."

Barscheit was known among her sister states as "the meddler," the
"maker of trouble," and the duke as "Old Grumpy"--_Brummbär_. To use a
familiar Yankee expression, Barscheit had a finger in every pie.
Whenever there was a political broth making, whether in Italy, Germany
or Austria, Barscheit would snatch up a ladle and start in. She took
care of her own affairs so easily that she had plenty of time to
concern herself with the affairs of her neighbors. This is not to
advance the opinion that Barscheit was wholly modern; far from it. The
fault of Barscheit may be traced back to a certain historical pillar of
salt, easily recalled by all those who attended Sunday-school.
"Rubbering" is a vulgar phrase, and I disdain to use it.

When a woman looks around it is invariably a portent of trouble; the
man forgets his important engagement, and runs amuck, knocking over
people, principles and principalities. If Aspasia had not observed
Pericles that memorable day; if there had not been an oblique slant to
Calypso's eyes as Ulysses passed her way; if the eager Delilah had not
offered favorable comment on Samson's ringlets; in fact, if all the
women in history and romance had gone about their affairs as they
should have done, what uninteresting reading history would be to-day!

Now, this is a story of a woman who looked around, and of a man who did
not keep his appointment on time; out of a grain of sand, a mountain.
Of course there might have been other causes, but with these I'm not
familiar.

This Duchy of Barscheit is worth looking into. Imagine a country with
telegraph and telephone and medieval customs, a country with electric
lights, railways, surface-cars, hotel elevators and ancient laws!
Something of the customs of the duchy must be told in the passing,
though, for my part, I am vigorously against explanatory passages in
stories of action. Barscheit bristled with militarism; the little man
always imitates the big one, but lacks the big man's excuses.
Militarism entered into and overshadowed the civic laws.

There were three things you might do without offense; you might bathe,
eat and sleep, only you must not sleep out loud. The citizen of
Barscheit was hemmed in by a set of laws which had their birth in the
dark dungeons of the Inquisition. They congealed the blood of a man
born and bred in a commercial country. If you broke a law, you were
relentlessly punished; there was no mercy. In America we make laws and
then hide them in dull-looking volumes which the public have neither
the time nor the inclination to read. In this duchy of mine it was
different; you ran into a law on every corner, in every park, in every
public building: little oblong signs, enameled, which told you that you
could _not_ do something or other--"Forbidden!" The beauty of German
laws is that when you learn all the things that you can not do, you
begin to find out that the things you can do are not worth a hang in
the doing.

As soon as a person learned to read he or she began life by reading
these laws. If you could not read, so much the worse for you; you had
to pay a guide who charged you almost as much as the full cost of the
fine.

The opposition political party in the United States is always howling
militarism, without the slightest idea of what militarism really is.
One side, please, in Barscheit, when an officer comes along, or take
the consequences. If you carelessly bumped into him, you were knocked
down. If you objected, you were arrested. If you struck back, ten to
one you received a beating with the flat of a saber. And never, never
mistake the soldiery for the police; that is to say, never ask an
officer to direct you to any place. This is regarded in the light of
an insult. The cub-lieutenants do more to keep a passable
sidewalk--for the passage of said cub-lieutenants--than all the
magistrates put together. How they used to swagger up and down the
Königsstrasse, around the Platz, in and out of the restaurants! I
remember doing some side-stepping myself, and I was a diplomat,
supposed to be immune from the rank discourtesies of the military. But
that was early in my career.

In a year not so remote as not to be readily recalled, the United
States packed me off to Barscheit because I had an uncle who was a
senator. Some papers were given me, the permission to hang out a
shingle reading "American Consul," and the promise of my board and
keep. My amusements were to be paid out of my own pocket. Straightway
I purchased three horses, found a capable Japanese valet, and selected
a cozy house near the barracks, which stood west of the Volksgarten, on
a pretty lake. A beautiful road ran around this body of water, and it
wasn't long ere the officers began to pass comments on the riding of
"that wild American." As I detest what is known as park-riding, you
may very well believe that I circled the lake at a clip which must have
opened the eyes of the easy-going officers. I grew quite chummy with a
few of them; and I may speak of occasions when I did not step off the
sidewalk as they came along. A man does more toward gaining the
affection of foreigners by giving a good dinner now and then than by
international law. I gained considerable fame by my little dinners at
Müller's Rathskeller, under the Continental Hotel.

Six months passed, during which I rode, read, drove and dined, the
actual labors of the consulate being cared for by a German clerk who
knew more about the business than I did.

By this you will observe that diplomacy has degenerated into the gentle
art of exciting jaded palates and of scribbling one's name across
passports; I know of no better definition. I forget what the largess
of my office was.

Presently there were terrible doings. The old reigning grand duke
desired peace of mind; and moving determinedly toward this end, he
declared in public that his niece, the young and tender Princess
Hildegarde, should wed the Prince of Doppelkinn, whose vineyards gave
him a fine income. This was finality; the avuncular guardian had
waited long enough for his wilful ward to make up her mind as to the
selection of a suitable husband; now _he_ determined to take a hand in
the matter. And you shall see how well he managed it.

It is scarcely necessary for me to state that her Highness had her own
ideas of what a husband should be like, gathered, no doubt, from
execrable translations from "Ouida" and the gentle Miss Braddon. A
girl of twenty usually has a formidable regard for romance, and the
princess was fully up to the manner of her kind. If she could not
marry romantically, she refused to marry at all.

I can readily appreciate her uncle's perturbation. I do not know how
many princelings she thrust into utter darkness. She would _never_
marry a man who wore glasses; this one was too tall, that one too
short; and when one happened along who was without visible earmarks or
signs of being shop-worn her refusal was based upon just--"Because!"--a
weapon as invincible as the fabled spear of Parsifal. She had spurned
the addresses of Prince Mischler, laughed at those of the Count of
------ - ------ (the short dash indicates the presence of a hyphen) and
General Muerrisch, of the emperor's body-guard, who was, I'm sure, good
enough--in his own opinion--for any woman. Every train brought to the
capital some suitor with a consonated, hyphenated name and a pedigree
as long as a bore's idea of a funny story. But the princess did not
care for pedigrees that were squint-eyed or bow-legged. One and all of
them she cast aside as unworthy her consideration. Then, like the
ancient worm, the duke turned. She should marry Doppelkinn, who,
having no wife to do the honors in his castle, was wholly agreeable.

The Prince of Doppelkinn reigned over the neighboring principality. If
you stood in the middle of it and were a baseball player, you could
throw a stone across the frontier in any direction. But the vineyards
were among the finest in Europe. The prince was a widower, and among
his own people was affectionately styled "_der Rotnäsig_," which, I
believe, designates an illuminated proboscis. When he wasn't fishing
for rainbow trout he was sleeping in his cellars. He was often missing
at the monthly reviews, but nobody ever worried; they knew where to
find him. And besides, he might just as well sleep in his cellars as
in his carriage, for he never rode a horse if he could get out of doing
so. He was really good-natured and easy-going, so long as no one
crossed him severely; and you could tell him a joke once and depend
upon his understanding it immediately, which is more than I can say for
the duke.

Years and years ago the prince had had a son; but at the tender age of
three the boy had run away from the castle confines, and no one ever
heard of him again.



Pages: | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | 6 | | 7 | | 8 | | 9 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | | 13 | | 14 | | 15 | | 16 | | 17 | | 18 | | 19 | | Next |

N O P Q R S T
U V W X Y Z 

Your last read book:

You dont read books at this site.