Elizabeth D. Hart
YOU WILL NOT really do this mad thing?” said Professor Schroeder beseechingly.
The man across the table raised his eyebrows. “Mad?” he repeated mockingly. “An instructive, sight-seeing expedition on that char-à-banc yonder? You will be warning me next, Herr Professor, against the perilous hazards of lawn croquet.”
And ignoring the professor’s inarticulate splutterings, he gazed thoughtfully across the square. It might have been the loving creation of a spider, that square—so frail, so tenuous, so nearly a thing of make-believe did it appear. The tinkle of the small fountain was like a tune from some eighteenth century music box; the cathedral seemed to raise not spires but delicate jewelled fingers against the sky; the houses shook out lace-handkerchief balconies with a sort of faded yet charming coquetry. Everywhere, even on the terrasse of the café, where Professor Schroeder choked angrily over his Kuemtnel, there lay a serenity as tangible as the pale sunlight, a serenity that bade one loiter and dream.
The object that held the attention of Professor Schroeder’s companion was obviously designed for a brisker setting. Its color, an unashamed orange, shouted for action. Its contours, though bulky, suggested efficiency. So did the man in a linen duster who was polishing a megaphone. So did the neat sign which announced in three languages: “Comprehensive tour of the city of Carlsburg. Ticket includes entrance fees to all museums and palaces.”
“Paradoxical places, these post-revolution republics,” mused the man with the professor. “Carefully preserving the last historical sceptre and hiring guides to keep the legend of royalty alive. Why, professor?”
“Money,” said Professor Schroeder. “Luzenheim is poor and needs money badly. And tourists pay to gape at the nuptial bed slept in by five generations of Rofmarks, or to pop their eyes at the ballroom especially designed and executed for His Royal and Illustrious Highness the Electoral and Princely Count Carl Wenzel, heir-apparent to the throne of Luzenheim.” The professor glanced around cautiously, then made a short stiff bow in the direction of his companion.
“Ex-heir-apparent,” that gentleman corrected amiably. “To me you will never be that,” said the professor. His brow grew overcast and he continued unhappily: “Ah, if it were for some serious purpose that you had come here—” “Such as arranging a little counter-revolution, eh?” put in the prince. He sighed. “No, professor. I am not so ambitious now. Perhaps if I were five years younger—” “Will you be quiet?” the professor hissed, again glancing
around him uneasily. “Is it not enough that you risk your life for a lunatic whim—?”
"To revisit the haunts of my youth,” said the prince, who had an annoying habit of completing all the professor’s sentences. “It’s quite like one of those tales where the hero comes back to the town that has unjustly used him, disguised in a white wig and a false mustache. Of course I’ve altered the pattern a little. I shaved off my own mustache, and my hair has obligingly turned—iron-grey is the correct fictional term, I believe. Still, the disguise is quite effective.”
“Disguise!” the professor snorted and set down his liqueur glass so violently that he almost snapped its fragile stem. “I would like to get my hands just once on that dunderhead who loaned you the English passport. And you insist it is safe because all passport pictures look like someone about to be hanged. You will not think it so funny if they decide to hang you!"
“Surely they’d grant me the favor of a firing squad,” the prince protested, “after all the money they’ve made exhibiting my personal effects and telling anecdotes about my devilish boyhood. I read a fascinating article about myself in a London paper. It was called ‘Europe’s Naughty Prince.’ I wish I had thought of doing half the things the authoress ascribed to me.” His voice was wistful.
“You needed no suggestions for folly then,” said the professor with grudging affection. “Then or now,” he amended.
The prince glanced at his wrist watch and stood up.
“\ou are actually going on the tour?” cried the professor. “Why, oh why, do you take this extra risk?”
"Because I wish to.” The prince did not speak arrogantly, but there was a note in his voice familiar to the professor. The latter had not been tutor to the heir-apparent of Luzenheim for eight years without learning that one could protest just so long, after which one said, “Yes, Your Highness,” and dropped the argument.
"Yes, Your Highness,” said Professor Schroeder.
The prince’s expression softened.
“You see, professor,” he said, "I am not like my father. He is quite content in his small country house, growing prize-winning roses for Sussex flower show's. But I—possibly I was crown prince too short a time to have enough of the rôle. It seems to have been the only thing I did really well.” A wry smile touched his mouth. "For ten years now I have failed at everything. So 1 thought it would be pleasant to look once more at places that would remind me that there was one profession in which I shone. Do you understand?”
"Yes,” said the professor. “Yes, my dear boy. 1 think I do.” He fumbled in his pocket. "You will at least wear these,” he begged.
The prince laughed. “Dark spectacles! Very well, if it will make you any happier. 1 am sorry 1 did not think of a crêpe paper Van Dyke.” He adjusted the spectacles and blinked through them solemnly at the professor. “I will meet you here in three hours,” he promised. “And at eight o’clock you may see me aboard the train for Paris. Meanwhile, do not worry.”
"You ask the impossible,” groaned Professor Schroeder. But the prince was already halfway across the square.
T-TE WAS JUST in time to find a place in the char-à-banc between a large American with three chins who had fallen asleep and a sallow Englishwoman who looked as though she needed some of the stout gentleman’s slumber. The prince marvelled at the grim endurance of vacationists w'hen he heard her tell her left-hand neighbor that Carlsburg was the eighth city she had visited in the course of a week. The man with the megaphone bellowed that they were ¡Kissing the Opera House.
“. . . designed by Oreste da Grisi, the celebrated Italian architect in 1800 under the reign of Rupert the Fifth . . . artistic equal of the most beautiful theatres in the world . . . the last brilliant gathering here was a private performance of Peleas and Mélisande for the Crown Prince Carl Wenzel and an invited audience. The crown prince imported internationally famous singers from all parts of Europe ...”
The sleeping American awoke suddenly with a gargantuan yawn in the prince’s face.
"Beg pardon,” he rumbled sheepishly. “Must have been the Tokay I had for lunch. A line wine but it surely makes a man nod.”
The prince smiled absently. He was living again that gala evening in 1919. For a gala evening it had been despite the fact that the audience was composed of men and women whose world had just crashed around them in irretrievable fragments. Russians with the nightmare of the Moscow riots still in their eyes ; slim, elegant Viennese, whose connection with the fallen House of Hapsburg was all that remained to them; Magyar princesses, to whom Budajjest was the Lost Paradise; fair, plump barons and baronesses who talked dazedly about following the Kaiser into Holland— they had all swarmed into Carlsburg that spring and the prince had delved recklessly into the tottering treasury of Luzenheim to make continual carnival in their honor.
“And he squandered that much on one performance?” It was a pale, contemptuous youth with a Slavic caste of countenance who spoke. “There’s the old order for you. Wanton, heartless profligacy in the teeth of ruin.”
The prince half-raised his hand as though in defense.
“Perhaps you are right,” he thought. “But they were my friends, my relatives.” For a little while, at any rate, he had sweetened their exile; for a fewT fleeting hours they had been able to forget that they were homeless refugees.
“It was my daughter ordered Tokay,” the large gentleman remarked, quite unaware that his neighbor’s thoughts were in a velvet-hung stage box. "She always wanted to drink it.” He turned to someone whom his bulk concealed from the
prince. “What was that you said about tne wine, Sue? How' was it you put it?”
“I don’t remember, daddy,” replied a definitely annoyed voice. But the large gentleman was not one who is easily quelled.
“Something about the moon, she said,” he told the prince. “She said that it looked like an autumn moon, melted and bottled, just while it’s turning from orange to pale gold. I think the Tokay people ought to let her write their ads, don’t you?”
“But that is a charming fancy,” .said the prince. He leaned forward to look at the man’s daughter. A strand of shining hair and an averted cheek scarlet with embarrassment were all he could get a glimpse of before the char-à-banc lurched around a sharp comer and flung him against the sallow Englishwoman at his left.
“We now approach,” the guide informed his flock, “the former residence of Magda Debrofski, the great Polish ballerina. La Debrofski had danced before every crowned head of Europe. Paris, Moscow and Vienna clamored for her permanent services. But she continued to reside in Carlsburg because”—his tones became as confidential as the megaphone would permit—“because of her greater friendship for the crown prince.”
The German couple on the seat ahead nudged one another, and a pimply-faced boy in knickerbockers snickered.
“Although much older than he,” continued the guide, gratified at this response, “La Debrofski exerted a great influence over Carl Wenzel for many years. She did not, however, follow him into exile. She returned to Warsaw and married one of her fellow-countrymen—a well-to-do banker.”
The sallow’ lady pursed her lips. “Naturally,” she murmured. “A woman like that w'ould run to someone else as soon as her fine prince lost his throne and his money.”
The prince’s self-control snapped.
“You are mistaken,” he said gravely. “Magda Debrofski was as generous and loyal as she was beautiful and gifted. It was ow’ing to her that Carl Wenzel escaped from Luzenheim. She risked her life to save his, although she was engaged then to the Polish banker and was looking forward eagerly to domestic happiness with him. The prince knew and approved of the engagement, and I assure you—” He paused, suddenly realizing that such intimate knowledge of the crown prince’s affairs must sound a little odd on the lips of an English tourist.
“I used to be a European correspondent,” he said hastily. “Luzenheim was one of the small countries of which I w'rote.”
He did not notice that the American’s daughter was leaning forward, regarding him with glowing eyes. His whole attention w'as fixed on the house of Magda Debrofski. As the mist of emotion cleared from his vision, it seemed to him that there W’as something wrong with the familiar outlines. He took off his glasses. The carved stone portals were unchanged, the wrought iron grilles still looked as though they had been embroidered in dull gold.
But the slim walls bulged on one side as though affected with the mumps
—bulged into a squat, chunky protuberance that glittered with very bright and very new ware netting.
“It is now' occupied by Herr Anton Holf,” the guide bawled. “Herr Holf is chiefly responsible for building up the manufacture of rayon for women’s undergarments— Luzenheim’s principal industry since the w'ar. We will visit Herr Holf’s plant later. He has very advanced ideas on hygiene and he has added to this house the enclosed gallery for—for passing the night outside—I do not know the word—”
“Sleeping porch,” called out the boy in knickers brightly.
“How perfectly awful !” exclaimed the American girl. The prince’s eyes met hers in sympathy. He replaced his spectacles wâth a sigh. It wfas a shame to drown such vivid prettiness in a sickly yellow' light.
T>ERHAPS IT WAS because of that brief interchange of
glances that he did not resent Sue’s presence in the royal vaults of the Church of the Annunciation. He had lingered behind the others that he might place a few' bunches of violets on the most recent addition to the tombs of the Rofmark dynasty. Violets and Madonna lilies had been the favorite fiow-ers of the late Queen Paulina Marie. But the little flower seller on the church steps had had no Madonna lilies to offer him.
“You will forgive the omission, chère maman," the prince murmured. When he looked up and saw Sue standing near him it seemed quite natural to say simply: “I am glad she died before the
“Yes,” Sue agreed softly. As they strolled back through the dim crypt she asked : “You knew her?” “I interviewed her once,” replied the prince, remembering his rôle.
“You are so lucky.” Sue looked at the German couple w'ho w'ere munching plums and photographing their peculiarly offensive child on the church steps. Then she sighed and allow'ed the prince to help her back into the char-à-banc.
“This is your first trip to Europe?” he asked, quietly appropriating the vacant seat at her left.
“Yes,” she said. “Of course it’s wonderful but—” she hesitated, frowning a little.
Her father leaned forward, his cheeks creased in a smile.
“This trip is Sue’s last fling,” he explained. “She’s engaged to one of the finest kids in the United States, but she said I had to take her abroad before she settled down to being a missus. The wedding’s in October.”
“Ah,” said the prince politely. He turned to Sue. “May I congratulate your fiancé? He must await the autumn with great impatience.”
She thanked him with a smile. But the prince had a feeling that she had been trying to tell him something that she did not w'ant her father to overhear.
“We are now entering the celebrated Horta Stellarum, which extends—”
“ Horta Stellarum,” Sue repeated. ’“Garden of the Stars. That’s nicer than the Champs Elysées. Why is it called that?”
“I believe it was originally named by old Carl the Third,” said the prince, stopping himself just in time from adding: “My great-grandfather.” “Astronomy was a fetish with him, and he could think of no more flattering name for his new park than garden of the stars. But popular legend now has it that it is called so from the number of decorations on the chests of the young men wrho rode horseback here every morning.” “Heavenly !”cried Sue. “And I suppose there were lots of
lovely ladies who were riding there in their carriages, too.” “They came about five in the afternoon,” said the prince, “and most of the young men w;ere seated at their sides then. Eleven was the fashionable hour for exercise. But it was a social duty to drive—and flirt—in the Horta Stellarum at five.”
Sue looked at the broad avenues lined with hedges of blue hydrangeas, at the immense chestnut trees and the velvet turf and the little willow-bordered canals, so useless and so utterly charming.
“I see no one now,” she said. “Only a few drab strollers and a taxi-cab driver searching for a fare. If I waited until five would I see the other-gorgeous uniforms, prancing horses, lovely ladies waving their parasols?”
“I am afraid that if you waited until midnight you would see only what you see now. Perhaps the President of the Republic might pass in his limousine. You see, the lovelyladies and the officers and the prancing horses went away.” “I know.” Sue’s voice was as sad as his own. “And that’s why I’m almost sorry I atme to—”
She broke off with a little gasp. “Why, what’s that ahead —with all the red and green tiles? It looks like a swimming pool.”
The prince half rose in his seat. “Good heavens!” lie whispered. “In the middle of Horta Stellarum!”
The char-à-banc halted. The guide cleared his throat twice, holding up his hand for silence. It was evident that for him the trip had reached its climax.
“This,” he announced, “is Nussbaum’s natatorium, one of the finest public swimming pools in Central Europe. It was built by Sigmund Nussbaum, who also owns the Casino and the Cinema Europa. Tomorrow a great fête will be held here.” He pointed to workmen who were erecting tiers of v’ooden seats around the edge of the huge pool. “Admission includes swimming, bath house, refreshments and a seat from which to witness the competition of one hundred beautiful girls —from every comer of Luzenheim— for the Crown of Beauty, which is to be awarded to the girl with the most perfect face and form. There will also be a special prize to the girl from this city ...”
“Fraulein Carlsburg,” Sue said hoarsely. “No, no, I can’t bear it.”
“As I remember.” said the prince, “there used to be a carp pond and an extraordinarily charming little temple of pink marble. Of course, the carp were very old. I suppose there is more excitement in bathing beauties.”
“Oh,” moaned Sue. “Oh, why has it all changed so? Why do they try' to ape all our worst features, our cheapest side, our—why', in Constantinople 1 saw a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer in a derby—in a derby!”
“I am afraid,” said the prince, “that you are a veryunreasonable young lady. I —”
“I know just what you’re going to say,” she cried. “The world can’t stand still, and progress is more important than tradition and I’m a sentimental schoolgirl.” She turned away from him with an impatient shrug.
The prince smiled.
“You interrupted me,” he said in her ear. “I w-as about to add that I, too, am unreasonable.”
HE WAS RATHER quiet as the char-à-banc puffed and lumbered up the corkscrew ascent to the old castle. ”... dwelling place of the first Rofmarks. restored in 1911 for the use of the Crown Prince Carl Wenzel,” the guide explained.
Of all Carlsburg this was the part he had loved most dearly and made his own —this sombre mass of turrets and ramparts dominating the countryside with a fierce and arrogant splendor. The king, the queen and the court had found it highly amusing that so modern a young man as Carl Wenzel should deliberately choose to live in a feudal castle. But their raillery had never bothered the prince. He had known w'hat he wanted and that was quite enough for him.
“What’s the matter?” Sue asked him as they strolled together on the central ramparts that the prince had converted into terraces, reminiscent of the hanging gardens of Babylon. “You look disturbed.”
“It’s the flamingoes. The terrace seems incomplete without them.”
“Flamingoes!” Sue exclaimed. “I’ve never seen a flamingo outside a zoo. You mean the prince kept them as household pets?”
“More as decoration, probably. They’re verydecorative birds. I^ess banal than peacocks, and there’s no color in the world lovelier than that vivid sunset-pink y'ou get in the pure-bred variety. They were marvellous with the dark stone as background.”
“I shall never cease envying you. Did you interview Carl Wenzel, too? I’ve always had a hopeless passion for Carl Wenzel.”
“Really?” said the prince, adjusting his spectacles nervously. “I fail to see why.”
“Oh, but he was so romantic ! He made such nice gestures. He’s the only' modern royalty who lived up to your ideas of what a prince should be—he was a sort of Rupert of Hentzau in the flesh.”
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“You’ve been reading the penny papers,” said the prince, thinking of the imaginative writer who had called him “Europe’s Naughty Prince.” He took Sue’s arm. “Come, they’re going in. We mustn’t miss the ballroom. I rather think you’ll like it.” “Yes, I know I shall. Is it really true about the secret passage?”
“The secret passage?” the prince repeated as they followed the rest of the party through the vast, echoing Hall of the Guards.
“The one that only the prince and the men who built the ballroom knew about. There was a certain panel that you pressed, and it swung backward into a tiny corridor that led out into the shrubbery. The prince used it when he wanted to lead some lady out into the starlight and it wouldn’t have been discreet to leave the floor publicly. Nobody was ever able to discover which panel. Listen! W’hat’sthat?”
Faint but unmistakable strains of violin music were drifting to them through a closed door a few yards ahead. The prince pushed forward and plucked the guide by the sleeve.
“Who is playing the violin?” he asked, keeping his excitement out of his voice with an effort.
“Only the caretaker,” replied the guide. “He used to be first violin in the prince’s orchestra. They say he was a great favorite with the prince, too. But he cannot play the
jazz and that is what all the cafés and theatres want now. So he asked to be allowed to stay on here and look after the castle. They let him because he is a good old man and would have starved otherwise.” “Thank you,” said the prince. He took a step toward the door from which the music was emerging, hesitated, then with a shrug allowed himself to be swept along by the others toward the ballroom.
“Poor Franz,” he said beneath his breath. “So you too have lost your profession.”
Yet Franz, at least, was living in close proximity to the scene of his happiest days. Did he come into this room often and people it again with the splendid throngs that had once waltzed there to his playing? It was easier to live on memories when one was Franz’s age.
T_JE WANDERED a little apart from the L L sightseers and surveyed his ballroom. When he was a child the prince had read a fairy tale, which described in alluring if somewhat vague terms the charms of a snow princess who lived in a palace made of ice and moonlight. Princesses of snow had lost their appeal for him by the time he reached his ’teens, but he had never ceased to long for at least one chamber akin to that fabulous palace. And as he was a person whose longings had a habit of materializing, the ballroom had finally taken shape—as
close a replica of his dreams as human skill and an imposingly large expenditure of the coin of the realm could make it.
Crystal and silver everywhere—in the tinkling prisms of the fifty chandeliers, in the low seats that encircled the floor like a loop of moonbeams, in the ivory panels covered with delicate scroll work, in the tall mirrors that alternated with these panels to form the walls, in the brocade hangings of the deeply set windows. Only the royal balcony glowed like a poinsettia bloom in a network of frost as a concession to the prince’s father, who had never felt quite at home anywhere without a touch of the Rofmark scarlet.
“Boy, oh boy, what parties they must have thrown here!” The pimply youth in knickers shuffled his feet and snapped his fingers joyously. The unpleasant German child gazed with astonishment at this display of enthusiasm, and allowed a halfchewed gumdrop to fall from her open mouth to the floor, where it was promptly ground into the gleaming surface by her father’s sturdy walking boots. The English lady, somewhat out of breath, sank down on one of the silver brocade seats. “Quite comfortable,” she said. “I wonder if the stuffing is down or one of those cotton and wool mixtures.” She poked the cushion with an experimental finger.
The prince looked around for Sue. She v'as standing in the deep embrasure of a window, her back turned with apparent indifference on his ballroom.
“The view is superb, isn’t it?” he asked as he joined her. “I see that you are not so interested in the room.”
She did not answer and he went on, childishly nettled at her lack of appreciation. “But doubtless you have seen thousands of night clubs in America beside which this ballroom is a laughable—”
She whirled around, her eyes brilliant with anger and with something else.
“Go away !” she cried. “I came over here because I was afraid of making a fool of myself before everybody. Go away !”
“I am sorry,” said the prince. “But I don’t quite understand.”
“It’s what I meant when I told you I was almost sorry I’d come abroad. In Constantinople I felt it, and in Vienna and Budapest, and nowr here. Going through the palaces, for instance. I didn’t mind at Versailles— the Bourbons are too remote to matter. But these other places—their rulers are still living somewhere in exile. Only fourteen years ago they were still rulers. And to come poking through their homes, with a bunch of stupid, vulgar rubbernecks—it makes me feel like a ghoul !”
She paused and eyed the prince defiantly. “Well,” she said, “go on. Tell me that if I’d come here fourteen years ago I’d never have seen any palace except from the outside. I know it. But there wouldn’t have been sleeping porches on seventeenth century houses and bathing beauty contests in beautiful, formal parks and—and—I’d rather have been an outsider than be surrounded by ghosts.”
The prince removed the yellow spectacles. She was even prettier, flushed with agitation, than he had expected. He took her hand.
“If I have seemed a little mocking,” he said, “it was because I could not quite believe that a young lady of your great and prosperous country could so concern herself about—ghosts.”
“You see,” Sue said in a quieter tone, “this ballroom was the last straw. It’s the symbol of everything I’ve stuffed myself with for years—Strauss waltzes, The Merry Widow, Anatol, court memoirs and Graustarkian-Zendaesque romances. I told you I was a sentimental schoolgirl. And to see it filled with tourists—of which I am one. Oh, I can’t help thinking: ‘You're just a few years too late, Sue—just a few' years too late.’ ”
She was silent, her hungry eyes travelling the length of the glittering room. Then she gave a shaky little laugh.
“I’d settle down cheerfully to the most cabbagelike domesticity in the world,” she said, dreamily, “if I could tell my children
that I’d waltzed in this room with a prince.”
The last of the sightseers had followed the guide into another wing of the castle and they were quite alone.
“Will you do me a favor?” asked the prince suddenly. "Will you wait here for five minutes? I promise not to let you miss the char-à-banc. Don’t ask me why. I’ll explain later.”
She nodded, too surprised to question him. The prince smiled at her and hurried out of the ballroom by the door they had entered. Six minutes had elapsed by Sue’s wrist-watch when she saw him returning, accompanied by a strange little man in an old-fashioned black suit. The little man, w'ho was certainly not a member of the sight-seeing party, chattered excitedly in German. His w'hite hair, which hung low on his neck, jerked back and forth to the nods and shakes of his head. As he drew nearer Sue saw' that he was carrying a violin.
This was astonishing enough. But what followed was more so.
TN THE EXACT centre of the ballroom
there was a balcony. Not a sumptuous balcony like the royal one. but small, w'ith a tiny winding stairway of silver. Up this stairway ran the odd little man. When he reached the top he came to the railing and, producing a large handkerchief, began to polish his violin with tender care. This accomplished to his satisfaction, he tucked the violin under his chin, drew his bow tentatively across the strings and, gazing down adoringly at the tall tourist, said something with an enquiring lift of the brows.
Then at a nod from the tourist he commenced to play a waltz. A waltz that Sue had heard before—somewhere—a melting, coaxing w'altz that wras * both gay and plaintive; a waltz that made you think of all
the lovely impossible things in the world. Only somehow they didn’t seem so impossible when you listened to that persuasive melody.
The tall tourist flung the violinist a radiant smile. He came across to Sue with a light, jaunty step and made a deep bow from the waist.
“Will you honor me with this dance?” he said. And there was no mockery' in his eyes, but gaiety and homage.
Exactly how she replied Sue never knew. But she was in his arms and they were floating on the lush stream of melody that poured from the little man’s violin. At least it seemed to her that they were floating, although she realized that they were actually performing a series of elaborate glides and dips and turns that melted into one another. Sometimes the music grew so distant that it was a mere trickle of thin, sweet sound, and she knew that they were dancing on the other side of the great ballroom. Sometimes the lofty ceiling flung back an echoing cadence so that it was like dancing to two instruments, one a shade behind the other. Occasionally a breeze set the prisms of the fifty chandeliers to quivering and tiny bells tinkled an accompaniment to the violin. She caught sight of them once in a far-away mirror—absurdly small figures swirling on the surface of a dark gleaming lake that stretched around them limitlessly.
The music swelled to a tremulous crescendo and ended on a trio of impudent, tripping notes. Sue’s partner released her slowly, retaining one hand in his own. Over this he bent and lightly kissed the fingertips.
“Thank you,” he said, “for one of the most enchanting waltzes of my lifetime. Adieu.”
“Adieu,” she echoed, as from a dream. She watched him cross the room, turn, take four measured steps to the left and, without an instant’s hesitation, halt before one of the ivory panels overlaid with silver scroll work. She watched the panel swing inward at his touch, watched him enter the dim passage without a backward glance. Then she gasped and shut her eyes, as one instinctively does when face to face with the incredible. When she opened them a second later the panel was back in place. After a while she remembered the old violinist. But the balcony was empty save for a large handkerchief that hung from the railing.
PROFESSOR SCHROEDER, having dismissed his class in philosophy ten minutes before dismissal was due, dropped down at a table in the café on the square and told the waiter to bring him a seidel of Pilsener.
“Why so exclusive, Herr Professor? Are you too annoyed with me to share my table?”
The professor bounded from his chair. “Heaven be praised!” he cried devoutly. “You are back alive !”
“Quite,” the prince assured him. “I have been waiting for you half an hour.”
“But I myself am ahead of time. Did the char-à-banc return early then?”
“It has not yet returned. I came back in a taxi.”
The professor seized his beer and drained the glass in two agitated gulps.
“You were recognized and forced to flee?” he whispered, trembling.
“Nothing as dramatic as that, Herr Professor. I merely left when I—when I had seen all I cared to.” He beckoned the waiter. “Shall we have another?”
“No,” said the professor. “No, you will come home with me at once, if you please. My wife is giving us an early dinner so you can take the eight o’clock train to Paris. You will take the eight o'clock train to Paris?” he asked in a voice that was a prayer.
The prince raised his glass.
“To unreasonable young ladies,” he said irrelevantly.
Then he smiled reassuringly at the professor.
"Yes, my friend, I shall take the eight o’clock train for Paris. I think,” he added thoughtfully, “that I have always known when to make my exits.”
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