The Last Ally
A Story of the War
HUGH S. EAYRS
A Canadian in Serajoz
ON a sunny spring day in the year of
our Lord one thousand nine hundred and fifteen, a fiacre drove up to a big house in the Lodz, the winding, crescentshaped street in Serajoz, the capital of Ironia, in which were to be found the Embassies.
There was nothing singular in that particular fiacre driving up to that particular house — apparently.
Fiacres in scores drove up there and drove away again day after day the year through, and occasioned little remark. Yet, as a matter of fact, there was something singular about the incident. It is hackneyed to observe that great effects depend upon small causes; but it is true. If certain influential gentlemen in Ironia had known who it was that jumped out of the fiacre on that sunny, spring day and, if these influential Ironians had had the gift of prophetic vision in superlative degree, they might have taken some action to prevent him from reaching the house of Baroness Draschol and her husband, Mr. Percival Varden. And then, perhaps, this story would never have been written, because Ironia might never have—. But I anticipate.
The fiacre stopped. Almost before all motion had ceased, a tall, alert-looking young man jumped out and, fishing out a handful of coins from his pocket implored the driver to take what was his due. The driver knew him for an American or an Englishman, or anything but an Ironian and, carefully abstracting from the outstretched palm the equivalent of twice the legitimate fare, drove away with a smile on his face and a blessing upon foreigners who had not the gift of tongues.
The young man stood on the sidewalk a moment. Then, with the quick step which characterizes the man of action, he strode up the narrow path to the house, and rang the bell. It was answered by a pompous individual, resplendent in a dull strawberry-colored plush suit who, with the combination of obsequiousness and
dignity that can be found only in the lackey in a semi-Oriental land, ushered the caller into a reception room and retired with his card.
The young man looked round him appreciatively. The splendid paintings which adorned the walls, the luxurious hangings, the rich, deep carpet, the handsome lounge on which he was sitting, all appeared to surprise him.
“Some change from that den of Varden’s in Montreal,” he murmured.
The curtains at the end of the room parted and a tall, well-groomed man of about thirty-five came quickly across the floor with outstretched hands.
“Don Fenton, by all that’s holy!” he exclaimed, pumping his visitors hand up and down with vigorous exuberance.
“Percy Varden, by all that’s—er—profane!” said Fenton with equal enthusi-
“Old Don Fenton!” repeated Varden, slapping the other on the back and beaming on him with real affection. “And in Sarajoz, of all places!”
“A mighty good place to be, if I’m to judge by your surroundings,” said Fenton. “You must be a deputy-Sultan at least, Varden, to live in such state.”
“Ironia isn’t a bad place, Don,” said Varden, with sudden soberness. “Or at least, it won’t be if a certain event comes to pass. If that certa’n even doesn’t happen, I intend to leave all this”—he made a
broad gesture to indicate the luxurious room in which they stood—“and find a place for myself in the line where the boys in khaki are fighting against the overweening pretens i o n s of the Hohenzollerns! When your country’s a t war, it’s hard to be an exile.” “I’m on my way back for that very same purpose,” a ffirmed Fenton, warmly. “When the war broke I was in Hungary and I just escaped the detention camp by two hours. Got over into Russia after a series of adven tures— dead broke. I had a letter of credit, of course, but it was gold that was needed. It took me a long time to establish my identity and convert my paper into gold currency. Then I came down through Bulgaria on my way home and decided to drop off and see you here in Ironia. And here I am.”
“But,” said Varden, “what I want to know is how you ever got to Europe in the first place. All this glib talk of letters of credit and gold currency! Last I heard of you, you were trying to convince the Canadian public that at last Eldorado had been discovered—in the form of subdivisions in Saskatchewan. And I judged from your letters that the public had developed an unwonted degree of skepticism.”
“Then you haven’t heard of my good fortune?”
“Why, no, I guess I haven’t. What’s happened?”
“Oh, a relative of mine shuffled off this mortal coil and before doing so had the decency and excellent judgment to leave me several million dollars. I considered myself justified under the circumstances in following the bottom of the real estate market; that is, dropping out.”
“Then you are the Fenton,” declared Varden, shaking hands again. “I read something in a new York paper about a young Canadian coming into a big pile but I never thought it would be you. Why, that possibility never entered my mind. Congratulations, old man, congratulations!”
“The congratulations should be mutual,
Varden,” said Fenton. “I remember when one Percival Varden was getting his fifteen per, and wasn’t worth that any more than I was my twelve per—according to that honest gentleman, that fair-minded director of budding journalists, George W. Jackson, city editor of the NewsDespatch—the unspeakable cur!”
“Then time hasn’t cured you of your reverence for dear old Jackson—the illbread beast!” said Varden, with a laugh that ended in a growl.
“No, I’ll never give up my grudge until I have a chance to assign Jackson to cover an August excursion to Hades. They would never let him come back.”
Varden laughed. “Still, they were happy days in Montreal, weren’t they? But I guess I ought to explain about my good fortune. I returned to England and met Baroness Draschol in London. We fell in love and that wonderful woman overlooked my personal deficiencies, my poverty and lack of position, and actually married me. My wife is connected with the royal family of Ironia and owns so much property that I haven’t found out about it all yet. And yet she married me, poor old hack scribbler that I was! Fenton, when you meet her you’ll wonder too how it could ever have happened. I’ve been married three years and I’m still dazed at my wonderful good fortune.” “Three years married and still in the raving state,” jeered Fenton. “One week generally serves to translate the bridegroom from that condition. Varden, you must be the luckiest fellow in the world.” “I am,” affirmed Varden, emphatically. “But wait until you see Sonia. She’ll be delighted to meet you. We’ve often talked about you. And, by Jove, Don, you are looking well!”
No one seeing the young Canadian would have dissented from this opinion. Fenton was about thirty years of age— a handsome fellow in a healthy, outdoor sort of way. He stood over six feet, broad-shouldered and straight-limbed. Set him in a crowd in any country of dark-pigmented, short-statured men and he stood out by contrast like a Norse god. It is not likely that any woman would ever refuse him the tribute of a second glance. And yet Fenton was not in any sense a woman’s man. The firm mouth, the strong jaw and clear eye told of resolve, of determination, of self-reliance. He had a finely chiseled face, a frank, clean, open face. Fenton was a manly man. It was said of him that he stood four-square to every wind that blew. “Married yet?” went on Varden.
“No,” replied the other.
“Then you’ve no one with you? No ties, no one whose wishes or whims you must consider?”
“Free as the air of the Western prairies,” returned Fenton. “Why?” “Well, if you can stay over and have the same taste for excitement that you had in the old days, I can gratify it for you, that’s all.”
“Well, what’s doing? And, by the way, what are your people in Ironia going to do? Going to join us in this war? Heard a lot of talk about it as I came through Russia. Ironia seems to have been pretty
well featured in the newspapers lately.”
Varden looked around, drew his chair closer, proferred his cigar case and looked at Fenton closely.
“That’s just the excitement I spoke of, Don,” he said. “Ironia is going to figure in the war; that part of it is certain. But on which side? There are two factions in the country and at the present time we are fighting like wildcats to de termine the policy of the country. Both sides are determined to win and let me tell you, Don, they take their politics hard in this land. It’s a fight to the bitter end in which lives are not counted of any great importance.”
“I guess you know pretty well how matters stand in Ironia,” he went on. “The people as a whole are heart and soul with the allies. Austria holds Serania and Mulkovina, two provinces that used to be part of Ironia. What Alsace and Lorraine are to France, these two provinces are to Ironia. It is certain that, if the allies win, Russia will seize both Serania and Mulkovina and then Ironia’s chance of bringing her sons and daughters in the lost provinces back into the fold will have been lost forever. Russia offers us the two provinces as the price of our throwing in our lot with the allies. Ironians see that it is their only chance and they clamor for war on Austria.”
“But,” said Varden, speaking cautiously, “there is one obstacle. King Alexander of Ironia is a Hohenzollern. His sympathies are all with the Teutonic alliance. He has been schooled in those methods of government which you can see working in Germany to-day and which are responsible for this war. And remember this, he is possibly, next to the Kaiser, the most absolute monarch in Europe to-day. The envoys of Germany and Austria are camping on his doorstep, urging him to join them. He would throw the weight of Ironian intervention into the scales against the allies to-morrow, if he were not afraid of the feeling of his subjects. Fearing to act according to the dictates of his own mind, he yet refuses to obey the clearly expressed mandate of the people and strike a blow for the restoration of the lost provinces.”
“Does the King stand alone?” asked Fenton.
“By no means,” replied Varden. “There is a faction that stands by him, composed of a number of the nobles and the Austrian section of the country. The majority of the nobles, practically all of the business classes and the common people en masse favor an alliance with England, France and Russia. Needless to state I am with the latter faction. I am, in fact right in the thick of it—sort of a lieutenant to Prince Peter, the King’s.brother, who acts as leader of the popular cause and who is, by the way, the strongest man in the country. It’s a great fight, Don—intrigues, plots and counterplots, with secret societies on both sides, duels, assassinations and all the other properties necessary to a Balkan embroglio. One never knows when a bullet may not come his way or a knife find lodgment between his shoulder blades.”
Varden had risen and was pacing up
and down the room excitedly. He paused in front of his guest.
“Ever come to bat in the ninth innings with two out and the score a tie?” he asked. “Do you remember the thrill you get in a fight for a big news story? Don, that’s all child’s play in emotion to this game!"
Fenton stood up in turn and faced his friend.
“I intend to place myself at the disposal of my country,” he said. “I’ve been wondering how I could serve best—by enlisting in England, or by staying right here and helping in the fight to bring Ironia into line with the cause of liberty. If you think I could be of any use, Varden, I would like to figure in this fight. Every cent I’ve got, my own time, my life, if necessary, are at your disposal.”
“Great,” cried Varden, wringing Fenton’s hand for the third time, “Can you be of assistance, boy? I wish I had a hundred like you. And a little cash won’t be amiss either. So just count yourself in from now on. You’ve enlisted in the cause.”
“Well, what’s the next move?” asked Fenton, impatient for action, and eager for a closer acquaintance with the thrilling experiences of Ironian intrigue.
“Have patience, you old fire-eater,” admonished Varden with an amused smile. “There’s a ball at the palace to-night. I’ll get an invitation for you and probably I’ll be able to introduce you to some of the leading characters in the drama. They’ll all be there. All you’ll have to do this time will be to keep your eyes and ears open.”
As Fenton walked down the steps and into the waiting fiacre, he smiled to himself. “Don Fenton, diplomat, is a new one,” he said. “But one man in his time plays many parts. I guess it’ll be more exciting than reporting or selling real estate anyway.”
The Royal Ball
THE ball at the palace was a very brilliant affair. Everywhere was the evidence of wealth. The room was hung with a thousand lights; the flowers, many of them strange to Fenton’s Western knowledge, and the decorations, were on a munificent scale. Beautiful women and handsome men in vari-colored uniforms, moved here and there intent upon enjoying themselves. Fenton was impressed and not a little surprised. The whole atmosphere was one of wealth and luxury, such wealth and such luxury as one does not often see in the kingdoms of the Balkans. Paris and Vienna and the Court at St. James have nothing more splendid to show, he decided, than a state function at Serajoz, the beautiful capital of Ironia.
Fenton was paying a mental tribute to it all when Varden touched him on the arm, and took him away to present him to King Alexander and his consort. Fenton had heard that the King was a charming man; and his Majesty’s personality made the few words of welcome which he uttered well worth remembrance. Alexander was possibly the handsomest mon-
arch in Europe. Dark, tall and soldierly, he looked every inch a King. It came to Fenton as he stood there chatting, that here was a man who would have his own way.
The formalities of royal presentation over, Fenton was backing away when he caught a glimpse of an officer, apparently of high rank, approaching the King, with a young girl on his arm. Fenton looked at the girl—and forgot everything else. She was tall and graceful, with an air that could only be defined as regal. Surely there had never been mortal more beautiful. The oval face was surmounted with a crowning glory of hair, dark and lustrous. Her skin was like the petals of a wild rose. Her deep violet eyes, large and unwavering of gaze were fringed with long lashes that imparted the only suggestion of coquetry to a face of surpassing witchery and charm. Fenton continued to stare in a literal haze of admira-
He was aroused from his dreams by the reappearance of Varden. The latter took him by the arm and propelled him forward until they stood in the presence of the divinity who had so completely set Fenton’s wits wool-gathering. Fenton, awe-struck at his good fortune, felt like a humble mortal suddenly transported into the august company of the gods on Mount Olympus.
“Your Highness,” he heard Varden say to the girl, “may I present Mr. Fenton, my friend from Canada. Fenton, this is her Highness, the Princess Olga.”
The Canadian bowed low over the Princess’s hand, surely the most dainty hand in all the world. He was then presented in due form to her escort, the Grand Duke Miridoff, a heavy-set man with hawk-like features, long mustache and side-whiskers, which stood out aggressively with an unmistakable Teutonic suggestion. The Grand Duke typified the domineering efficiency of the military officer, which has become so obnoxious since the outbreak of the war.
Fenton, murmuring a commonplace greeting, felt a strange antagonism for Miridoff. The latter’s manner, while strictly courteous and even urbane, did not conceal the fact that Miridoff himself took no pleasure in the introduction.
In a few minutes, Varden with a happy tact, discovered an errand that took both himself and Miridoff away. Fenton allowed his glance to follow their retreating figures for a moment, and then, conscious of the scrutiny of his companion, turned back to the Princess. She was studying him with a frank interest.
“I must have a long talk with you, Mr. Fenton,” she said, speaking in excellent English. The conversation previously had been conducted in French in which Fenton was well schooled. “You are so— so different from us. I have met but two Americans before; and they were of Austrian descent. You see, we are off the beaten track of tourists here in Ironia. Coming from your strange, big country across the ocean you seem almost like a visitor from Mars.”
They laughed; and Fenton’s diffidence left him. He began to talk of Canada, of
the vastness of the country, of its customs and its freedom, particularly of its freedom. The princess listened with deepest interest.
“I should like to go to America—to Canada,” said she. “It would be so splendid to be able to do what you wanted without bothering with customs and etiquette, to be able to go about without endless crowds of people staring at you.”
“C a nadians turn out to stare at Princesses the same as they do here in Ironia,” answered Fenton, “In fact as their opportunities are fewer, they probably take advantage of them even more obtrusively. And even if you were to travel incognito —I’m afraid my country men would let their admiration get the better of their polite-
They were soon on most friendly terms, quite forgetful of the fact that she was a Princess of the royal line. In fact,
Fenton found it difficult to realize that his companion was anything but an unusually attractive partner at a , F , , dance; and she seemed cpprnpd nuite quite as a? Willing to let all other considerations recede in-
to the background. And so a quarter of an hour of most delightful interest passed, though it seemed but a moment to Fenton, when a tall elderly man in uniform brought their tête-a-tête to an end.
“Mr. Fenton, this is my father,” said the Princess.
The Canadian who had been observing everything, acknowledged the introduction with a correct imitation of the stiff formal bow that seemed an integral part of Ironian etiquette. The Prince bore a striking resemblance to King Alexander, Fenton noted. Could this be the Prince Peter to whom Varden had referred?
They talked for a few minutes, the Prince also speaking English with fluency. Then someone came, a little understrap-
per in a most gorgeous uniform, and bore the Princess away to dance. “Lucky devil,” sighed the Canadian to himself.
The two men walked out on to a balcony, and on the Prince’s first remark, Fenton became assured of his identity.
“Mr. Varden has spoken of you to me,” said Prince Peter. “He intimates that it is your intention to remain for some time in Ironia and to lend your assistance to the cause that Mr. Varden has himself espoused.”
F e n t o n responded warmly and for half an hour the two men talked war problems and Ironia’s relation thereto. Prince Peter discussed the situation vith a frankness which might have astonished the young Canadian had he not been aware that all Ironia was thoroughly conversant with most phases of the vexed problem. When the Prince returned to the ball-room, he left Fenton with an unbounded enthusiasm for the new cause and a deep respect for Prince Peter himself. The latter was a born leader in every respect, particularly in his ability to win adherents. Fenton lit a cigarette and started down a dark path leading to the extensive and intricately planned royal gardens. He wanted to be alone. He wanted to be able to think, to dream. And his thoughts and dreams at first ran exclusively along one groove. How beautiful, the Princess was! He had never dreamed it possible that all the graces and beauties could be so combined in one person. Then his thoughts took a gloomy turn. He began to reflect on the future; his future and hers. He would go back to Canada, which now for the first time seemed far away and void of interest. She would marry a man of royal blood and rule in some such country as Ironia. He pictured her married for
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diplomatic reasons to a royal nonentity, condemned to a lifetime of endless etiquette and senseless rigmarole. He reflected darkly on the benighted condition of the old world which made such things possible. Was there no way that an ambitious young millionaire from the new world could succeed in upsetting this almost inevitable arrangement, could succeed in scaling the walls of old world custom and tradition?
In keeping with his thoughts his pace had become savagely energetic. He now discovered that he had wandered well away from the palace into a maze of dark paths. He stopped and looked about him. And then suddenly he heard voices.
They proceeded from a thick clump of bushes close to his right. A voice raised itself sufficiently high to carry its message to his ears. The owner of the voice was speaking in German and Fenton knew enough of that language to catch what he said. It interested him so acutely that he stepped through the bushes cautiously in the direction from which the voices came.
In a small clearing, part of which was thrown into relief by a ray of light from
a near-by building, stood a group of men. One of them turned and the light fell direct on his face. With a start of surprise Fenton recognized the Grand Duke Miridoff.
“Are we all here?” asked Miridoff, his j deep throaty voice pitched to a low rumble.
From where he stood behind the bushes, Fenton could watch the party without be: ing seen himself. He noted that they were all in uniform or evening dress, having apparently left the ball-room to attend j this stealthy rendezvous. It struck Fen| ton that these men were not Ironians for j the most part. They had gathered about j Miridoff, who quite apparently was the 1 leader.
“As members of the Society of Crossed Swords,” Miridoff was saying, “we have j important work to do. I have learned ! much this evening and so thought it necessary to have word passed quietly to each of you to meet me here.”
“Events are taking an unfavorable j turn,” he went on. “The King is still loyal ! to the Teutonic cause, but the strong feelj ing throughout the country is making an j impression on him. Peter is pressing him strongly. I regret to have to state it but | I can clearly see the King is wavering.”
There was a moment’s silence and then Miridoff began to speak again in such low tones that Fenton had much difficulty in catching the words.
“I received important news to-night— from the front. The Russians are massing for an invasion of Mulkovina. It will be hard to hold them. Once they get possession of Mulkovina, without Ironia’s assistance, no power on earth will wrest it from them.” Miridoff’s voice at this point sunk almost to a whisper. “If the people know that Russia is ready for the advance, nothing will prevent them from declaring for the allies while there is still time to gain the two provinces by so doing. Alexander’s opposition will be swept away. There is only one course left. Ironia must j be ranged on Germany’s side before the news of the Russian mobilization leaks out!”
This statement was followed by a babel of discussion in which most of the men took part and the confused tangle of talk proved too difficult for Fenton’s inadequate knowledge of the German tongue. He lost the thread of the discussion until the decisive tones of Miridoff again cut through the talk and forced the others into silence.
“There is but one course open. If Prince Peter is not there to prompt the King, to urge his policy arguments, Alexander could be rushed into declaring war against Russia at once. That is what we must bring about. Peter must be removed !”
A murmur followed Miridoff’s statement and out of it Fenton’s amazed senses picked one word. Assassination !
“Well, who’s to do it?” he heard one of the men say.
“It is to decide that point that we are | here,” answered Miridoff. “It is a rej grettable necessity, but our cause deI mands it. Peter dead, the people will be 1 like a flock of sheep without a shepherd, j Destroy their leader and you destroy their '
morale. It is necessary to get your consent to the step?"
There was a murmur of assent that appeared to be general. “Our oaths binds us to secrecy,” said the leader. Drawing from his pocket some slips of paper, he deposited them in his hat. “Two are marked,” he said. “Those who draw them will be called upon to perform the service. Are you agreed?”
Rooted to the spot with horror, Fenton watched the men draw in turn from the hat. After all had drawn, two of them stepped aside for consultation with Miridoff. “The rest of you had better go,” said the latter. “This place is none too safe. Remember, not a word. Perhaps by tomorrow morning we shall have news for you, news that will shake the world and cause a grey fear to creep into the faces of the cursed English!”
Fenton Speaks Out
FOR the first time now, Fenton became aware that the happy accident which had brought him as an eavesdropper to this extraordinary assignation had also placed him in a most dangerous position. On completing their consultation, the three men made straight in his direction. Fenton tried to shrink back further into the rhododendrons but even in the darkness they did not afford sufficient shelter for a man with the conspicuous white shirt ; front of conventional evening dress. He ' decided that his best chance of safety lay i in flight.
Pulling the collar of his dress coat up around his neck, he started off cautiously. Unfortunately he stumbled and nearly fell headlong into a small shrub, threshing about noisily in an attempt to keep his footing. Sharp exclamations from the rear warned him that he had betrayed his presence to the three conspirators. Throwing all other considerations to the winds,
I therefore, Fenton ran for dear life.
The men behind took up the pursuit : with business-like grimness. Not a word was uttered but in an instant he heard the I steady pound of their feet and then the ! sharp discharge of a revolver. A bullet whizzed close past his ear, showing that the conspirators were not firing entirely at random. Several more shots followed ; in the next few minutes, and in each instance they were but an inch or two off their mark.
Fenton had been a sprinter in his college days; and the knowledge that three expert and determined marksmen are on one’s trail is perhaps the greatest spur to velocity that could be imagined. Without paying any heed to his course, he plunged straight ahead, through shrubbery and garden plots, around fountains and over railings. His pursuers made up in desperation what they lacked in length of leg and it took the young Canadian some time to gain a comfortable lead.
Without pausing to catch his breath or plan any definite course, Fenton showed himself in the ball-room. Glances t' drifted his way casually, fixed themse’
on him with astonishment until finally the Canadian found that, much as he had desired to avoid notice, he had instead made himself the cynosure of all eyes. The reason was not hard to find. In his flight he had broken recklessly through brambles and thick shrubbery. The front of his once immaculate dress shirt was wilted and soiled, his face was scratched, his hair rumpled. He looked as though he had been through a football scrimmage.
To find Varden was his first endeavor but the latter, unfortunately, was nowhere in sight. So Fenton decided to seek Prince Peter in person and convey to him direct the startling news he had stumbled upon. Threading his way blindly through the gay ranks in search of the leader of the allied cause, he came in contact with the Grand Duke Miridoff. The two men halted and stood for a moment belligerently face to face. Their glances crossed like rapier blades. Miridoff coldly and without haste appraised the disorderliness of the young Canadian’s appear-
“Mr. Fenton has been strolling in the gardens?” he said.
Fenton was not a diplomat. He was unversed in the art of exchanging polished phrases in the face of life and death situations, of veiling threats, innuendoes, warnings, in the guise of polite rejoinders. He replied with the directness and vigor that are supposed to be characteristic of the Canadian character.
“You’re damned right I have, Miridoff!” he said. “And it’s lucky I happened to be around just when I did!”
Miridoff, accustomed to the devious ways of diplomacy, was thrown off his guard by the sheer unexpectedness of so direct a rejoinder. He regained his poise in an instant, however, and treated Fenton to a cold glare thr.t fairly radiated menace.
“Perhaps, Mr. Fentcn will find it unlucky—for himself—that he happened to be around just when he did,” he said, passing on.
The remark set Fenton thinking. Undoubtedly th? situation presented certain possibilities that had not occurred to him before. His clandestine presence at the meeting of the Society of Crossed Swords, known as it was now to the conspirators, would not serve as a deterrent to the carrying out of their foul purpose. Instead it had given them a double aim; it would be advisable to get him out of the way before the plans laid for the death of Prince Peter could be attempted. That much was quite clear even to one so completely unversed as himself in the ruthless ways of Balkan politics. He was a marked man. It was equally clear to him that he was practically powerless in the matter. He could not go to the police or the military authorities and lay bare the wbcle thing to them. He would merely be laughed at for his pains. Who was he, an unknown foreigner, to lay such a serious charge against so illustrious a personage as the Grand Duke Miridoff! This course could have no effect other than to decAroy b.ivovfïi '¿Sftfplness tp the cause had espoused and to perhaps toing |spicion down on the Prince and Varden. i
Fenton saw clearly that the only thing for him to do was to acquaint the Prince of the plot against him; and take the chance of any danger to himself which might arise in the meantime from the animosity of Miridoff’s myrmidons. He accepted the , latter possibility quite cheerfully.
He continued his search for Prince Peter with an almost feverish eagerness, recognizing that every minute was precious now. Delay on his part might mean the death of the leader of the popular cause with all that such a calamity would entail. Miridoff’s reasoning had been right; the Prince out of the way, there would be little difficulty in persuading the King to swing Ironia into line against Great Britain. But, to Fenton, the possibilities did not stop there. Prince Peter was father of—the loveliest woman in the world! Ever since he had spent those golden minutes with the Princess Olga, thoughts of her had never entirely been out of his mind. Even as he had dashed headlong through the murky gardens, a picture of her as she had last appeared to him, in all her regal beauty and dainty girlishness floating off to the strains of “The Blue Danube” on the arm of an utterly unworthy native officer, had remained with him. Could this great sorrow be permitted to come to her?
And it was to the Princess herself that he finally told the story of the plot. He could not locate her father and, in sheer desperation, sought her out where she stood at the end of the long ball-room. His disheveled appearance created comment in the group surrounding her but Fenton, casting finesse to the winds, rode roughshod over all considerations of court etiquette.
“Your Highness,” he said, “I must see you for a few minutes—alone. I assure you it is a matter of great urgency.”
The Princess, glancing at him intently, divined the earnestness behind his unusual request and, with a murmured word, dismissed the partner to whom she had been engaged for the next dance.
They walked slowly to a palm-shaded alcove close at hand. Fenton placed a seat for his companion but remained standing himself.
“Your Highness,” he said, earnestly, i “I want to apologize, first for appearing in such a condition and second for what must appear to you as gross ignorance of all that pertains to royal etiquette. I can plead in extenuation only the urgency of the case.”
He then told her in a few words of his blind excursion outside and its astonishing sequel. “I may have done wrong by telling you this,” he concluded, “but I could find neither your father nor my friend, Varden, and I realized that every moment was precious.
For a moment there was silence. The eloquent dark eyes of the Princess which had been fixed on his face during the recital, were now fille«? with S. ifoutned apm;. • -
(To be continued.)