By Jamks Brixsley-Richakds,
Author of ' Seven Years at Eton,' ' The Duke's Marriage,' etc.
VOL. 1.-CHAPTER IV.
To imagine that I hasted to the British Legation next morning to inquire if Prince Roderick's engagement with Isabel Meadowes were a fact would be to make a wrong guess. Miss Meadows was a stranger to me, and Prince Roderick's lovo affairs •were no business of mine. Foreseeing that 1 should soon bo a witness of extraordinary things, I felt that the timo had conic for strictly minding my own concerns ; in fact, I was so apprehensive of gettiug mixed up in intrigues that I kept aloof irom the Legation altogether. I passed an idle week, Dr Grinzener gavo me no work to do, and the prince did not send for mo. Two State banquets were held in tho palace, but I was not invited. During three days I lunched and dined at the Equerries' mess, but I noticed that the officers were on their guard in Bpeaking before me. There were some very gentleman-like young fellows among them, whose tastes mated perfectly with mine; and one in particular, a Count Richard Sonnenthal, seemed rather disposed to make friends with me. But, acting apparently under orders, they all maintained a polite reserve touching every question connected with their country. Not one of them "took mo up" by advising mo to go and see this or that, or by volunteering to go out with me. One day Sonnenthal laughingly began a story about some Court scandal in which there was a dash of politics, but I caught a glance that was sped to him by one of hia brother officers, and which made him abruptly turn tho conversation.
Annoyed at this, but not desiring that my presence should be a damper on the company, I ceased to attend the mess, and asked to be served in my own rooms. This appeared to give considerable satisfaction to tho major-domo who superintended the servants on my floor, and Joe eooo told mo why. " This is tho most wasteful place I've ever beeu in, sir," he exclaimed, answering some remark of mine about the delicate food that was always brought to me. "Do you know, sir, that nothing that's served at the prince's tablo or at any other table in the palace ever comes up a second time? Meats, wines, sweets, candles, flowers, is all the perquisites of servants. What's Jeft iu the glasses goes to one servant, the wine left in the bottles goes to another, and a third get 3 the uncorked botfcleß that remain on tho sideboard. It's the same with the other things. Somo of the hotelkeepers send regularly to the palace every day to buy the leavin's ; and when there has been a banquet the tablet d'hOte, I'm told, 'ave a fine time of it."
"I see they always send me up two bottles of wine," I said. " You can tell the butler I never drink white wine; and half a bottle of red will do very well for me at dinner. At luncheon I'd rather have beer."
"I'llgive the order, sir, but I doubt if it'll reach the kitchen. That gentleman with the steel chain will draw your two bottles all the same and keep the one you don't want for himself. I have my rations of wine and beer regular, and there they otoud whether I want 'cm or not. Prince Roderick mnst be a very rich man, sir, to pay for all this squanderin'." Tho prince's extravaganoe must have been great indeed to shock Joe, who had not been used to much economy in our regiment —one of the fastest iu the service. I must here mention that Joe Trotman had been my servant from the day I joined the 22nd Dragoons. He had served with me in Egypt, and I had bought his discharge when I threw up my commission. He was a capital valet, and a steady, sober fellow, whose only defect perhaps was a long tongue. All that ho eaid was truth, however, for he had not imagination enough to invent; and he would relate thiugs that astonished him in a simpla straightforward way like a boy. He was a Cambridgeshire man, born in a racing stable at Newmarket, and had hoped to becomo a jockey, but Nature had decided otherwise for him by giving him six feet of stature, though leaving him with such lankineßS of limb that there seemed to be material in him for two jockeys. He had bright blue eyes, and a thickly freckled complexion that matched oddly with his hair and moustache, which were of a dull black. The truth is that his hair was red, but having been nicknamed "Ginger" in the regiment, he had taken to usiog dye, which gave his whole head a remarkable appearance. He had some sense of humor, and could not live anywhere without taking a keen interest in his surroundings. I do not think lie put pryiug questions, but his attitude as a deeply attentive and surprised listener encouraged other servants to talk before him, and all that he heard was faithfully retailed to his master. Sabelburg was an artistic centre, and had a pretty large colony of English and American painters. One afternoon, beißg out for a Solitary walk, I fell in with a young artist whom I had known in London, Harold Crowe a rather wild and noisy youngster with a taste for practical joking and showy clothes. If Harold Crowe had been obliged to draw for a living he would have distinguished himself, for he had a genuine talent for portrait paintiDg, and especially though ho disowned it for caricature. Unfortunately he had too much money to work diligently at his easel, and therefore idled and amused himself. He rented a large studio, which twice a week was crowded with brother artists and laughing girls, most of them models, who chorused BODgs and drank beer. In the eveniug Crowe was generally to be found at the Opera, or at the Court Theatre, or at the Nobles' Casino, where high play was carried on. Occasionally, but not often, he patronised the Wuratel Keller (Sausage Cellar), an underground tavern where his compeers of the palette emptied countless schoppes and held intellectual assizes arraigning artists, authors, and musicians all the world over for summary trial and almost invariable condemnation.
In my loneliness I fastened upon Harold Crowe, and I went twico to the Opera with him ; but not in tho equerries' box. I noticed that he knew a great many people and exchanged free and easy nods with several officers of Prince Roderick's household. He was a handsome fellow with a fair complexion, a short pointed Cavalier beard and waxed moustacho, superlatively dandified, conceited, and an arrant poseur, but always amusing in conversation, and in his principles a perfect gentleman. He was held in some respect in Sabelburg because he had fought two or throe duels with officers on slight provocation, and had got the best of these encounters.
The Opera, which received a liberal subvention from the King's civil list, was admirably conducted. Its orchestra and chorists were famed all over Europe. The prima donna, whom we Baw in the parts of Elsa in * Lohengrin' and Margaret in Gounod's ' Faußt,' was a splendid creature, a perfect type of the fleshy, blue-eyed, fair-haired German girl, naively natural in her acting, and trained to a point in the use of her ringing voice. " That's Mira Vogelsang, your prince's bonne amie," whispered Harold Crowe. " Look at her diamonds !"
" An old flame, I suppose ?" " No, she's in favor still—at least she was yesterday. They say the prince is !;oing to be married to Miss Meadowcs, but that wouldn't matter, for he has the morals of a sweep. This girl is Viennese ; her real name is Mina Vogel, and the people here treat her coldly because they say she gets the best parts owing to Roderick's influence, and she has quite wiped the eye of the local favorite, Olga Klangmttller. Sht'a a jolly girl, though. I'm painting her portrait, and at our last sitting the prince came in and chaffed me about not having given her a double chin. Look at her now bowing to him."
Sure enough, Mira's fine singing had carried away the public, who were applauding loudly. The.prince clapped his hands, and she, turning towards the Royal box, made a deep curtsey. "There are times when she quite transports you," said Harold; "and if you go to the Fasabrau restaurant after the performance you find her tackling a huge veal chop and a potato salad, every slice
of which she carries to her mouth with a knife. By-the-bye, I wißh you would get Prince Roderiok's permission for me to go and paint during a fortnight at his Castle of Gi iinsee. It'« a grand place." " VVhy don't you ask him yourself?' 1 " I should have to catch him in the humor. He's a queer fish. To-day ho'll clap you on the hack, to-morrow he'll frown if the color of your necktie doesn't happen to suit him. Last year he fluDg poor Mini into the lake at Griinsee because she put her arm round his neck after they had been singing a duet by moonlight. It is said, too, that he shot one of his secretaries for
cheeking him, and since then all the members of his household, including old Grinzener, carry a defensive arsenal in their coat-tails."
"Come, I say, isn't there a good deal of loose gossip about the prince '!" I asked, though, as it may bo imagined, this last remark gave me food for reflection. " I daresay there is some loose gossip," answered Harold. " There can be no doubt, however, that the prince docs lead tho devil of a life at Griinsee. He gets a few friends and fine women round him, »nd
they live in the past, as he calls it. One day they all dress up in Louis Quaiorze style, and havo a band of harps and fiddles to play Lulli's music to them while they dance gavottes on tho grass. Another day they clatter about in the twelfth century
armor, and eat roast peacock stuffed
with cloves, shredding the drumsticks with their fingers, because forks would bo an anachronism. Another day Roderick impersonates Lucullus, and he has a gang of Montenegrins who dress up as gladiators and do battle with a mangey lion bought from a strolling menagerie. You should
road what the 'Badbtadt Gazette'says about your prince. It's a scurrilous little paper published in the neighboring kingdom, and, as I believe, subsidised by the Primo Minister of this country, who is doing all he can to get Prince Roderick put out of the succession." " Oh ! that's his game, is it ?"
" Well, yes. The old King and Count Hochort would do anything to make Roderick renounce his claims, for they arc afraid that ho would drive this old coach of
a kingdom to blue smash with all orakes up. You see, Prince Wolfgang, the King's son-in-law, who is a jolterheaded, puddingfaced sort of man, will give no trouble an a constitutional king. That is the reason why I suspect a great deal of underhand wirepulling was practised to prevent Roderick from marrying a princess of his own rank ; for, of course, if he married and had a son, Wolfgang's chance would be gone."
" And if he married Miss Meadowes ?"
" That would be as though he were not married at all, and the combination would suit old Hochort and the King exquisitely. It could only be a morganatic marriage. Roderick's wife would have rank as countess, but he would be stopped from marrying anybody else. I am rather sceptical, though, about that marriage, precisely because it has been announced in the ' Badstndt Gazette,' and because I observe that the people who talk most about it are Hochort's friends. Something must have happened ; but if Roderick has decided to marry Miss Meadowes he must have made up his mind to renounco the crown for her sake; and, from what I know of him, I should consider this highly improbable." I now imagined that I had got a good insight into Prince Roderick's character and into the machinations that were at work ronnd him. Harold Crowe continued his confidences when wo next met at the Opera. Mira Vogelsai g waa playing Margaret in ' Faust,' and, after the garden scene, in which she had acted and eung with impassioned force, the coldness of tho audience, always manifested when she first appeared on the stage, quite melted, and she was enthusiastically called before the curtain. Prince Roderick stood up in his box, smiled to the girl, and seemed delighted with her success. No bouquets wcro thrown, because the rule of the Opera—and a very sensible rule too—forbade it. " Tho prince is evidently very fond of music," I observed to Harold.
"Yes, his emotion ju3t now was all for tho singing, not for the woman. He carrs little for any woman, and poor Mira herself has no delusions on that point." "Do you mean that t'he's not fond of him'"
"Mira likea anybody who is kind to her. Her eyes swim if you give her a bunch of violets. But as for adoring Prince Roderick, you'll understand the difficulty when you know him better." "I must say he impressed me favorably."
Harold gazed for a moment at the tips of his lavender gloves before he replied. " There's a Turkish proverb which says: ' He that seeks a friend without fault* shall live without friends.' Your Prince Rode-
rick uses mankind to make lemon-squash with—he just squeezes out what there is in his acquaintances and then flings them aside. He has an infernally fcharp tongue, and cuts at your defect*, whatever they may be, without ruth. Add to this that ho is variable a3 April. He'll talk, drink, and spend to excess; then suddenly clap his body under martial law, condemn himself to cold water and hard reading, and make everybody believe that ho is going to turn monk or republican. He wants a woman to manage him, but she would have to bo an uncommonly clever woman for such a task." " Have you heard anything more about the Meadowes marriage ?" "No ; but you ought to be better posted on that subject than any of us, for Isabel Meadowes and her mother are both living under tho same roof as you, on a visit to Princess Dorothea, Roderick's sister. So at least the ' Bidstadt Gazette' says. I suppose you have not become acquainted with Princess ' Dot,' as we call her?" "No ; her wing of the palace is quite separate from her brother's." "She's a character," exclaimed Harold, laughing. " Her nickname will do equally well in the English or French sense, for she is a little doll of a thing, and has a tremendous dot (dowry). But old Hochort has been marring her matrimonial plots as he did Roderick's, for fear lest she should make a great alliance and raise up friends for her brother, to whom she is quite submissive. The poor little soul was brought up as an ' unattached religionist,' eo as to be open to any handsome ofFtr, and when she had her first love affair with a Russian Grand Duke, an Archimandrite was fetched from Moscow to prepare her for tho Ortho-
dox Greek Chuich. The Russian match having been broken off, an Austrian Archduke came forward, and the Princess Dot was taken in hand by a learned Jesuit. I don't know how things are going witli her now, but perhaps you will see her at the English Church to-morrow, and listening hard to the sermon, for she is extremely pious." The next day was Sunday. I had then been ten days at Sabelburg, and pricking inclinations were in me to write und ask Prince Roderick whether His Royal High-
ness had any real need of my eervices. To be fed and paid for doing nothing was derogatory ; and I began to be afraid that I must be secretly the laughingstock of the household. Joe was evidently curious to know what my business was, but he brought me news from the servants' hall that Prince Roderick was soon going to Griinsee, and this prospect induced me to take patience. Joe's principal crony, Mr Bobbs, the coachman, was either ignorant of the rumors about Prince Roderick's marriage or else deemed it piudent not to discuss them at the loquacious table over which he presided. At all events Joe spoke not !<■ word to me on the subject, and I made a point of never encouraging his propensity to gossip by asking questions. I did not even ask him whether he was aware that some English visitors wcro staying with the Princess Dorothea, but I ascertained from him that the palace had only one garden; and from the moment of learning this I sat down by an open window to watch if Isabel Meadowcs would come out. I determined that if I could accost her alone in the garden for only one moment, I would make the venture, and try to get some elucidation from her lips of the mysteries in which I had been living. She did come out on that Sunday morning. We were in the first days of a warm June, and she was dreased for walking in some pretty summer material, with hat and gloves on. The garden was all abloom with roses. Isabel Mead owes walked up to a bush of Marshal Niels, plucked one for
, her corsage, and quickly returned indoors. ; It waß of no use for mo to go down into the garden, but I started for church, making certain I should see her there. Her mother, Lady Springfield, was at church, but Isabel was not. I remained to the end of the service, and then slipped to tho door to see the whole congregation—a tolerably large one, for are not the English like swallows abounding in all Lands ; Lady Springfield, who was a florid lady, in brown watered silk, passed me with a gracious bow, but stepped at once into a Court carnage and was driven away. At this moment red-faced Sir George Malmsey caught me by the arm and said: "I have a noto from Count Hochort saying the King wishes to see you, so you had better meet me at the palace to-morrow at ten, as His Majesty gives audiences every Monday." "Shall Igo in uniform a Yeomanry uniform?" "Oh yes; if you've any clothes with lace wear 'em. I say, this is a pretty business about Miss Meadowes, isn't it?'' "I have heard something about a marriage." " Aye, don't talk to me about it," and Sir George raised both hands aloft, his habit when anything disturbed him. " When I first heard of it you might have knocked me down with a broomstick—l mean a feather. I said to Lady Springfield : ' This is the sheerest infatuation, ma'am. My honest and plain advice to you is to go to the devil—l mean to your excellent husband —and take his advice.' Ah! you should have heard the setting down I gave her;
for I say, you know, it's quite too positively monstrous that an old harridan—l mean a respectable woman like that should go hunting a prince about with threats of an action for breach of promise and Heaven knows what all." "Is Prince Roderick reluctant then ':"
" Princo Roderick be d . H'm, ah well ! I mean bless the man! I should
think he was as dogsick of petticoats by this time as any human being can be. No ; it's Lady Springfield who's at tho bottom of it all, and this very morning, an hour before coming to church, I wrote to her and said : 'As the Queen's representative hero, I bet; to tell your ladyship officially and privately that I'll see you at—at—' I forget what was the place I mentioned—- ' before I allow the marriage to take place at the British Legation.' By Jove ! the old thing grinned at me like a eat during the service as if nothing hud happened; and I shouldn't wonder if the marriage came off privately this very week in Prince Roderick's palace; but mind you, I wash my hands of the matter, so does Lady Malmsey, and I wish you would tell the prince that from me." "If I see the prince I'll not fail to give your Excellency's message." " Mind you do, and say that I shall take
him for a bigger fool than he looks—ahem, you know how to word that pleasantly—if ho lets himself be intimidated by that confounded old catamaran. By Jove ! it's lucky I'm not given to strong language, for all this is enough to make the Pope swear." I went home feeling very glad that I had not spoken with Isabel Meadowes that morning, for what blunder might I not have committed in speaking with her? Had
I not been fast heart-bound to Connie Davenanfc, I must have attributed to jealousy some of the sensations which oppressed me. Certainly the uppermost thought in my mind was one of mortificatiou and anger that a girl so beautiful and gifted as Isabel Meadowes should be forced by a scheming mother on to a man who had no love for her, and who by all accounts was an eccentric spendthrift and rake. As for my own positiou, it was now [ becoming plaiu. If this marriage came off ; I should at once send in my resignation, for I could not remain to be suspected as an Englishman of having hern in some way a party to Lady Springfield's maiueuvres. When I entered my rooms 1 found a copv of the ' Kladderadatch' lyiDg on the tabic I took it up mechanically, without at first remembering that Dr Grinzener had chosen this paper as a medium for occult communication with me. As soon as I recollected this I opened the paper and noticed same very small dots under certain of the letters. The message which they spelt ran as follows : " Come without fail to-day, four o'clock, to Northern Railway Station." CHAPTER V. Why had Dr Grinznner sent me this cryptographic message? Had it any reference to the prince's marriage ? 1 concluded that it must have. Not being at all fixed in my own mind da to Dr Grinzener's character, I was nevertheless convinced that he never acted without a sufficient reason; and the more singular his action the more likely wus it that his reason must be cogent. It need scarcely bo added that I did not at all like this mysterious summons to attend at a railway fetation. I felt I was being drawn into a conspiracy against my will. Yet, mere curiosity impelled mo to keep the appointment. Joe had leave to go out for the afternoon, so at luncheon I was waited upon by one of the footmen in blue and orange liveries. When the troy had been removed I drew a chair near the window, and, with an unread English newspaper on my lap, mused as I smoked a cigar and gazed into the garden. Presently a little lady with a pink face and fluffy flaxen curls, whom I guessed must be the Princess Dorothea, tripped down the steps of a terrace, preceded by a big Danish dog with a silver collar, and followed by Lady Springfield, Isabel Meadowes, and a burly, shambling old man who wore the dress of a Lutheran clergyman. The party was almost immediately joined by Prince Roderick, who came from the opposite side of the building. His military frock was open, showing a white waistcoat underneath, and he wore a regimental cap of white nankesn. No greetings were exchanged, so the prince had evidently met the ladies before on this day. The party began to saunter along the alleys, the prince walking in front with Lady Springfield, while the Princess Dot, who held a Japanese paper sunshade, Isabel, the ckrgyman, and the dog strolled at a few paces behind. I of course withdrew from the window, but with some shame at what I was doing, and which I only excused to myself on the ground that I must in self-defence observe all that was going on. I took up a position behind the curtain, whence I could see without being noticed. Isabel was thoughtful; the Princess Dot very merry, and her frank laughter resounded like a schoolgirl's. Once she brought her group to a standstill while sho executed on the grass two or three steps of a jitr, apparently for the instruction of Isabel. A few minutes later she proceeded 1o illustrate some lunge 3 in fencing, which she did by closing her sunshade and making proda at the old clergyman, to the great excitement of the Danish hound, who gambolled about barking in a deep baying voice. At last the Princess Dot, twined her arm round Isabel's waist and danced indoors with her, the clergyman going with them. Prince Roderick and Lady Springfield remained in the garden, and I could see their conversation was animated.
The prince bit his nails and sometimes stood stillj] making gestures and talking volubly. Lady Springfield shook her head, drew her black lace mantle close to her as though offended, and on one occasion walked right away from the prince. He stood for a moment irresolute, then overtook her, and thsre was some more earnest dialogue. At length these two parted also, and the princo returned towards his own apartments, his hands deep in his trouser pockets, and his head bent.
It was now three o'clock, and it occurred to me that as a railway station was mixed up in my affairs I had better put on a light suit and a low-crowned hat, so as to look as if I were Ejohig to travel. I hesitated as to whether I ought to take my revolver ; but I hate these foolish weapons, which, besides other inconveniences, make the pocket of a well - fitting coat bulge out. I even rejected the idea of a thick stick, and chose a slender cane; but I provided myself well with money, and throw a dustcloak over my arm.
It was a lovely afternoon, and the streets were thronged with people going out to spend the evening in the Bier-Gartens of the suburbs. All the shops were closed and the cafes almost deserted. Countless
droshkies (open fließ), their cushions in white cotton covers, were carrying family parties tricked out in Sunday best—the women all fanning themselves and the men all smoking. The railway station was at some distance from tli<: palace, and when I arrived there punctually at four, there wore crowds hurrying in to catch suburban trains. Dr Grii.zener was waiting for me on the slepa of the principal entrance, and looked the embodiment of respectability with his panama straw hat, well starched shirt front, grey silk gloves, and ivory-headed walkingstick. He laughed from ear to ear as be shook hands, but said not a word, and led me to the first-class waiting room, where, greatly to my surprise, I found Isabel Meadowes, whom I had seen an hour before in the palace garden, now dressed in travelling costume and holding a small bag. She colored, but looked gravely into my eyes as she said in a low voice : " Excuse me for this, Captain Meredith ; I have telegraphed to my father to join me at Ostend, and I am going there by this evening's cxpiocs. But I shall get into the train at Lilientbal so as to avoid observation. Do you mind travelling as far as Lilientbal with me ? it is about twenty miles off. I with vnry much to speak with you." Dr ftrinzener had disappeared.
Isabel had already taken the tickets, and as the train was to start in a few
minutes we passed on to che platform ; but there was difficulty in finding a first-clai-s compartment with two vacant Eeats, and when at last we succeeded, the two seats which we obtained were apart and on the same side of the carriage—nor did it occur to the two polite Germans who occupied the intervening places to move so that Isabel and I might sit together. This prevented me not only from holding conversation with Isabel, but from observing her during the crawling progress of the train.
An hour was occupied in doing the twenty miles, for the train stopped at every station. When we alighted at Lilienthal Isabel said she had never been to this town before, and suggested that we should seek an open-air restaurant, Taking counsel of a flyman, we learned that the favourite Luiiham lay on the other side of Lilienthal, about a mile
ofi'; so wc entered his trap aud were driven through a charming old town with woodenframed houses, having three or four btories of attics in their slanting roofs. Storks built their nests between the chimneys, and stood iu rows on the mossy ridges. The belta of tivo or three ancient churches were ringing for evening service, aud groups of placid tradesfolk and clean-faced children lounged in open doorways or eat upon chairs on the pavemen's under old-fashioned signboards hung upon wrought iron brackets. We were driven to a delightful park upon a wooded hillside, which commanded a prospect of a valley with half a dozen villages and a winding river. Here was a restaurant n which a garrison band waa playing, aud hundreds of people were seated at white tables consuming beer, coffee, milk, ham, cold sausage, aud such things. The easy mixture of classes, the good behaviour of everybody, the general contentment, are always very pleasant things to notice in these German pleasure resorts, which cannot be matched in England, and which indeed raise the question as to what rank the English, who require so much nursing from their legislators in the way of licensing laws, hold in civilisation. Isabel was too attractive not to be Btared at, but the Germans stare at every one artlessly and not rudely. It is to bo presumed that -ve passed for a newlymarried couple, and 1 dare say I came in for much—to me—inaudible congratulation on the possession of such a wife. We made our way to an arbor and ordered coffee, which was brought in a few minutes, and excellent coffee it wa3. The baud was playing the March from the ' Tunnhausf r ' "This is a strange adventure," began Isabel, Einiiiug to set us both at ease. "Shall I pour out for you ? One lump or two ':" "Two lumps, please." I had by this time studied every feature of Isabel's, and every detail of her neat travelling costume. Perhaps she caught my look of admiration, for she changed color a little before she said: " I have taken a great liberty with you, Captain Meredith, but owing to the position wli'ieh you now hold, I wished to speak to you, aud it wnß necessary for your own Bake that I should do so. You have heard that I wan to be married to Prince Roderick ':'' I nodded. " Well," siie resumed, with heightened color, " believe me when I tay that I never suspected until a few days ago what use was being made of my name. I shall never be Prince Roderick's wife. 1 would not marry him if I could become a queen by doing so—no, and not if he could give up his rank for my sake, aud were willing to make the sacrifice." Rly share in such a conversation could only'be a silent one. Isabel, in a trembling voice, proceeded : " I have been cruelly toyed with nnd betrayed. When 1 came on a visit to Sabelburg with my mother, Prince Roderick paid toe great attention. Knowing all I do now I do not condemn him for hia conduct towards me. Still, I think he should have been more considerate. I understood little about his position, nor did I guess that there were insuperable bars to his marriage with a girl in my condition. Prince Roderick can be very fascinating ; but enough of this. All was at an end between us, so far a3 I was concerned, from the moment I heard about a morganatic marriage and saw that Prince Roderick's feelings towards me were not what I had foolishly believed." She had grown pale now, but her voice was more steady. " The excuse for Prince Roderick is that he is surrounded by wicked plotters," she continued. " I know that the project of a morganatic marriago with me was much favored by some persons at Court, and I believe now that the prince only feigned to be in love with me, so that he might seem to cuter into the views of hi 3 enemies and secure some time of peace for himself by throwing them oft' their guard. I am sure he ia in love with somebody else, but with whom is more than I can gue3s, and I trust he may be able to keep his secret; for it ia certain that misunderstandings would be sown between him and the young lady, whoever she may be. Poor fellow, I pity him from the * depth of my heart. With suah a fine nature as he has in some things, he deserves better than the fate allotted to him !"
" It is your opinion, then, that he has a fine nature ?'' "He has noble strivings after good, with a faulty judgment and a weak character ; but I trust you will remain his friend, Captain Meredith, and, God helping, keep him from harm. And I wish you would carry him tin's letter from me, in which I say that I entirely forgive him. Let him not trouble himself about what he has said and done to me. All, except a, very compassionate memory of him and sincere good wishes for his future, shall be effaced from my mind." The girl's voice broke here, and tears started to her eyes. After a pause she resumed her narrative, and explained how her mother had been acting. This she did with the utmost tact and dutifulness, notwithstanding which she could not but make it manifest that the wordly-minded Lady Springfield had been rendered quite giddy by the prospect of a Royal alliance. Count Hochort had told her that if the prince married Mies Meadowcs the marriage could only be morganatic for the present, but that when the prince succeeded to the Crown he might get a law passed to sanction the match and raise his wife to the throne. On the other hand, the Prime Minister hinted that if the prince would forthwith renounce all rights to the Buccccsion for himself and his heirs for ever, the King might be disposed to confer a high title on Miss Meadowes, so that she could marry on a footing of equality and become the lawful right hand wife of the prince. It thus seemed to Lady Springfield that the marriage was a thing to be sought after for either issue, and she had sought after it to the extent of informing Prince Roderick that after all that had happened he was bound in honor to wed Isabel. " But with all this I have had nothing to do," concluded Isabel with quiet dignity, " and it was to put an end to negotiations, humiliating to me, and distressing to the prince, that I have run away."
a "Had Lady Springfield any notice c y yonr intention ?" I asked, e "No ; but the Princess Dorothea was i n the secret and assisted me. She is a goo little thing, hut terrihly uncompromisiu " about Royul rank, and I believe she dislikd ' nie thoroughly while she thought that Iwa s bent on marrying hor brother. When r made a confidante of her she at once becam' a my ally, invited my mother and mo to sta; - with her, and connived at my escape to-day 3 If I had been staying with my mothor at ai > hotel I could not have gone away without i • moat painful scene. In fact, my mother ; who is persuaded that she was acting for mj good, has treated me like a child through | out the whole afl'air—never telling me whal passed between her and the prince. Mosl ! of what I know waa communicated to me by the Princess Dorothea." "And what part has DrGrinzener played '. Do you trust him ?" " I trust him thoroughly," answered Isabel. "He is the prince's friend, and politically Count Hochort'a adversary. Were Prince Roderick to reign, Jfochort would be dismissed from office, and Dr Grinzener would become chief minister; and now this brings me to the part of my story which concerns yourself." She looked round and dropped her voice, though the band was playing some of Verdi's most brazen music, so that I had to strain my ears to catch her words. " I have told you that the prince is being plotted against by a clique of powerful and unscrupulous enemies, and I believe that you were appointed to be his secretary in the hope that you would encourage him in tho extravagance and profligacy which have so much injured his reputation. Forgive me for saying that the description furnished of you by your friends in England made you appear to be a man whom influence would be rather for evil than g«,wl. When I met you at the Legation I thought that I read your character in its true light, and I recollected that my brother in the army had spoken of you in the highest terms—so highly indeed that I felt reassured, and determined to warn you." " 1 remembsr meeting your brother," I said ; " but lam afraid he is a little of an enthusiast.' " No ; he told me that you were a brave, upright gentleman, and esteemed by every one of your brother officers. That is quite enough. But, Captain Meredith, I am afraid that you may, nnconeciously to yourself, be used as an instrument for the prince's ruin. So be ever on your guard. Every thoughtless act which the prince commits ia exaggerated in society, and printed with absolutely false details in bad newspapers. The prince struggled long against these calumnies, but found it of no avail, and has now grown reckless —too reckless. Possibly the calumnies may gather in force now that tho prince is supposed to be under the influence of a frivolous Englishman—for that is the reputation which is being prepared for you. A good deal of what the prince does will be laid to your charge, but worso than this may happen ; for if the prince should come to sudden mischief—a thing which I dread without divining whence it may come—you might be made a scapegoat." " This is getting serious, isn't it ?" I remarked, with an effort to treat the matter lightly. "Has it not struck you as curious that you should have been employed because you were an orphan and not engaged to be married—which seemed to indicate that you had nobody to care for you ? Trust a girl's shrewdness for seeing farther into these matters than experienced men. I know that the prince is encompassed with | dangers, and you yourself must remain in peril unless you lnave his service." " After what I have heard it would bo impossible that I should desert him—uulees he dismisses me." " That's right; remain by him," said Lmbel with a grateful look. " You may be the means of his salvation. For myself, I shall go away with a light heart, knowing that the prince has a true friend in you." It waa growing late now, and wc had to go so that Isabel should catch her train at Lilienthal. We drove back to the station, and on the way I spoke only of her journey. She made sure that her father would meet hor at Ostend, and that her mother would promptly follow her. "But there can be no more question of the marriage," she added; "my flight will have extricated Prince Roderick from his difficulty." On the platform at the station she asked me once more not to forget her letter to the prince. "See at least that it reaches him," she said, " even if you do not deliver if; yourself." " I will deliver it with my own hands, Mis 3 Meadowes." " I think it will be better so. He will know then that you are acquainted with all the circumstances, and he will make no attempt at concealment. It ia a weakness of his to make mysteries, and no wondor, seeing what his position is. Perhaps he will be vexed for a day or two, but perceiving how I have trusted you, ho will understand you to he faithful, and will look to you for further help." The train from Sabelbarg entered the station, and Isabel shrank back a little behind trio to watch if any person of her acquaintance alighted. But no familiar face appeared ; and I handed hev into a cowpi, arranging with a good-natured guard that he should take her under bis protection and see. that nobody intruded on her. " Good-bye," the said, holding out her pretty hand through the window; "goodbye, and thank you so much." ' " Thank you" I replied; "and will you grant me a favor—may I write to you ?" " Yes, do, and direct your letters under cover to my father. I will tell him to give them me." The train started, and Isabel waved me another good-bye as I raised my hat. " That's a good girl," I reflected; and somehow it gave mo pleasure that she was not going to be Prince Roderick'* wife. ( To be continued.)
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PRINCE RODERICK., Evening Star, Issue 8042, 19 October 1889, Supplement
PRINCE RODERICK. Evening Star, Issue 8042, 19 October 1889, Supplement
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