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ST. CHARLES HERALD.
Long Live the King MARY ROBERTS RINEHART CopWrtt.lWp , RM „ M Oompaoj Copyright, 1317, b 7 MarylRoberta Rinehart WMAMVWMtvmttmuWMMVMUW • COUNTESS LOSCHEK'S SECRET MESSAGE CAUSES A LOT ' ' OF TROUBLE FOR SEVERAL PEOPLE =» Synopsis—Tho crown ton years old. taken to theOriern v n"* I ' C^dinan,, Willil1 ™ "'to. s!l P s away to the nark when, i ' !lUIlt • ,m>s " f fho singing and Thorpe, a little American hov it !""*!'* ,ho a,( iualntn»ce of BobBy hnds everything in an uproar^.'* Iu,ur " ln « 'he palace at night, he made for him. The same ni ^ ,7 M * 1 <l 1,10 which has been boy's grandfather the old km? , '' huncol,or niI,s ''"'»suit the gests that to preserve Hie i" '° ' S V,>ry i]l ' Th <* 'Wellor sug | he ter rorists to form public "'the 11 - *" threat ' >npd 1,y ' ,lots " f kingdom of Karnyi be secured hv'giving th nage to King Karl of that country friendship of the neighboring Princess Hedwig in mar " -rsr, ""'ÄÄ'Äir »ästss plot» to prevent his tuuriinge to I Id wig. sb c ind message to Kin Karl. sends a secret CHAPTtR CHAPTtR V.—Continued. "Mot I loti; or. you cannot look back, and •—and remember your own life, and al low me to be wretched. You can not !" Hedwig began to cry. 1 he archduchess hated tears, and h r softer moments were only mo ments. ' Dry your eyes, and don't be silly.'" she said coldly. "You have al Avays known that something of the sort was inevitable." She moved toward the door. The two princesses and her lady in wait ing remained still until she had left the table. Then they fell In behind her. and the little procession moved to the stuffy boudoir, for coffee. But Hilda slipped her arm around her sis ter's waist, and the touch comforted Hedwig. "He may be very nice," Hilda volun teered cautiously. "Perhaps it is Karl. I am quite mad about Karl, myself." Hedwig, however, was beyond listen ing. She went slowly to a window, and stood gazing out. Looming against the sky-line, in the very center of the $lace, was the heroic figure of her dead grandmother. She fell to wondering about these royal women who had pre ceded. Her mother, frankly unhappy in her marriage, permanently embit tered ; her grandmother. Hedwig had never seen the king young. She could not picture him as a lover. To her be was a fine and lonely figure. But romantic? Had he ever been roman tic? She slipped out onto the balcony and closed the curtains behind her. As her eyes grew accustomed to the darkness she saw that there %vas some one below, under the trees. Her heart beat rapidly. In a moment she was certain. It was Nikky down there, Nikky, gazing up at her as a child may look at a star. With a quick gesture Hedwig drew the curtain back. A thin ray of light fell on her, on her slim bare arms, on her light draperies, on her young face. He had wanted to see her, and he should see her. Then she dropped the curtain, and twisted her hands together lest, in spite of her, they reach out toward him. Did she fancy it, or did the figure salute her? Then came the quick ring of heels on the old stone pavement. She knew his footsteps, even as she knew every vibrant, eager inflection of j his voice. He went away, across tire square, like one who, having bent his kuee to a saint, turns back to the busi ness of the world. In the boudoir the archduchess had picked up some knitting to soothe her jangled nerves. "You may play now, Hilda," she said. Annunclata dozed, and Hilda played softly. The countess' opportunity had come. She put down the dreary em broidery with which she filled the drearier evenings, and moved to the window. She walked quietly, like a cat. Her first words to Hedwig were those of Peter Nlburg as he linked arms with his enemy and started down the street "A fine night, highness, she said. Hedwlg raised her eyes to the s.ars. "It is very lovely." "A night to spend out-of-doors, in stead of being shut up—" She finished her sentence with a shrug of the shoulders. Hedwlg was not fond of the count ess. She did not know why. Thi truth being, of course that between thorn lay the barrier of her own nocence When the countess' arm touched hers, she drew aside. "Tonight," said the lady in waiting dreamilv. "I should like to be in a motor, speeding over mountain roads. I come from the mountains, you know. And I miss them." . ,, Hedwlg moved, a little impatient y, but ns the countess went on. she lis tened. After all, Nikky, too. came from the mountains. And because she was sorry for the countess, who was homesick, and perhaps because just then she had to speak to some one, she turned to her at last with the thing that filled her mind. "This marriage," she said bitterly. "Is it talked about? Am I the only one in the palnce who has not known about It?" "No highness, I had heard nothing. Of course, there are always rumors. -L to the other, the matter my do," j mother referred to." Hedwig held her I head very high, "I—she was unjust, j Am I never to have any friends?" 1'riends, highness? One may have ( friends, of course. It is not friendship I »hey fear." j "What then?" "A lover," said the countess softly. It is impossible to see Captain Lar i.seh in your presence, and not j realize—" "Co on." "And not realize, highness, that he is in love with you." "How silly!" said the Princess Hed wig, with glowing eyes. "But highness!" implored the count ess. "If only you would use a little caution. Open defiance is its own de feat." "I am not ashamed of what I said Hedwig hotly. "Ashamed ! Of course net. But things that are harmless in others in your position—you are young. Y'ou should have friends, gayety. I am," she smiled grimly in the darkness, "not so old myself but that I cun un derstand." Hedwig stood still. The old city was preparing for sleep. In the place a few lovers loitered, standing close, and the faint tinkling of a bell told of the Blessed Sacrament being carried through the streets to some bedside of the dying. The Princess Hedwlg bowed her head. It seemed to her, all at once, that the world was full of wretchedness and death, and of separation, which might be worse than death. "I wish I could help you, highness," said the countess. "I should like to see you happy. But hnppiness does not come of itself. We must fight for It." "Fight? What chance have I to fight?" Hedwig asked scornfully. "One thing, of course, I could do," pursued the countess. "On those days w }j en y 0U wish to have tea with—hi^ royal highness, I could arrange, per haps, to let you know if any member of the family intended going to his apartments." It Avas a moment before Hedwig comprehended. Then she turned to lier haughtily. "When I wish to have tea with my cousin," she said coldly, "I shall do it openly, countess." She left the balcony abruptly, abnn j ( ] on j n g the countess to solitary fury, the 1 greater because triumph had seemed so near. Alone, she went red and white, bit her lips, behaved ac cording to all the time-honored tra ditions. And even sw ore—in a polite, lady-in-waiting fashion, to be sure— to get even. Things were going very wrong for Nikky Larisch. Perhaps, at the very first, he had been In love with the princess, not the woman. It had been rather like him to fix on the unattainable and wor ship it from afar. Because, for all the friendliness of their growing intimacy, Hedwlg was still a star, whose light touched him, but whose warmth was not for him. He would have died fighting for her with a smile on his lips. But he had no hope of living for her, unless, of course, she should happen to need him, which was most uniikely. He had no vanity whatever, although in parade dress, with white gloves, he hoped he cut a decent figure. So she had been his star, and as cold and remote. And then, that very morning, Hedwig had been thrown. Not badly—she was too expert for that. As a matter of fact, feeling her self going, she had flung two strong young arms around her horse's neck, and had almost succeeded in lighting on her feet. It was not at all dramatic. But Nikky's heart had stopped beat ing. He had lifted her up from where she sat, half vexed and wliolly ashamed, and carried her to a chair. That was all. But when it was all over, and Hedwlg was only a trifle wobbly and horribly humiliated, Nikky Larisch knew the truth about himself, knew that he was in love with the granddaughter of his king, and that under no conceivable circum stances would he ever be able to tell her so. Knew, then, that happiness and he had said a long farewell, and would thereafter travel different roads. So that night he started out to think a things over. Probably never before in bis life had hi» deliberately done such a thing. He had never, as a fact, thought much at all. It had been his comfortable habit to let the day take care of itself. Beyond minor prob lems of finance—minor because his in come was trifling—he had considered little. In the last border war he had distinguished himself only when It was a matter of doing, not of thinking. But lie was young, and the night was crisp and beuutiful. He took a long breath, and looked up at the stars. After all. things might not be so bad. Hedwlg might refuse this marriage. They were afraid that she would, or why have^asked his help? When he thought of King Karl, he drew himself up, and his heels rang hard on the pavement. Karl! A hard man and a good king—that was Karl. And old. From tho full manhood of his twenty three years Nikky surveyed Karl's al most forty, and considered it age. It was typical of Nikky to decide that he heeded a hard walk. He translated most of his ».motions into motion. So he set off briskly, turn ing into the crowded part of the city. And here it was that Nikky hap pened on the thing that was to take him far that night, and bring about many curious things. Not far ahead of him two men were talking. They went slowly, arm in arm. One was talking loquaciously, using his free arm, on which hung a cane, to gestic ulate. The other walked with bent head. Nikky, pausing to light a cigarette, fell behind. But the wind was tricky, and with his third match he stepped into a stone archway, lighted his cigarette, buttoned his tunic high against the chill, and emerged to i silent but violent struggle just ahead The two men had been attacked by three others, and as he stared, the loquacious one went down. Instantly a huge figure of a man outlined against the light from a street lamp, crouched over the prostrate form of the fallen man. Even in the Imperceptible sec ond before he started to run toward the group, Nikky saw' that the silent one, unmolested, was looking on. A moment later he was In the thick of things and fighting gloriously. His soldierly cap fell off. His fair hair bristled with excitement. He flung out arms that were both furious and strong, and with each blow the group assumed a new formation. Unluckily, a great deal of the fighting was done over the prostrate form of Peter Ni burg. But disaster, inglorious disaster, waited for Nikky. Peter Niburg, face down on the pavement, was groaning, and Nikky had felled one man and was starting on a second with the fight ing appetite of twenty-three, when something happened. One moment Nikky was smiling, with a cut lip, and hair in his eyes, and the next he was dropped like an ox, by a blow from behind. Landing between his shoul der blades, it jerked his head back with a snap, and sent him reeling. A second followed, delivered by a huge fist. Down went Nikky, and lay still. The town slept on. Street brawls were not uncommon, especially in the neighborhood of the Hungaria. Those who roused grumbled about quarrel some students, and slept again. Perhaps two minutes later, Nikky got up. He was another minute in lo cating himself. His cap lay in the In the Thick of Things and Fighting Gloriously. gutter. Beside him, on his back, lay a sprawling and stertorous figure, with, so quick the downfall, a cane still hooked to his arm. Nikky bent over Peter Niburg. Bending over made his head ache abominably. "Here, man!" he said. "Get upl Rouse yourself!" Peter Niburg made an inarticulate reference to a piece of silk of certain quality, and lay still. But his eyes It opened slowly, and he stared up at the stars. "A fine night," lie said thickly. "A very fine—" Suddenly h< raised himself to a sitting posture. Terror gave him strength. "I've been robbed," he said. "Robbed. I am ruined. I am dead." "Tut," said Nikky, mopping bis rut lip. "If you sire dead, your spirit speaks with an uncommonly lusty voice! Como, get up. We present to gether a shameful picture of defeat." But he raised Peter Niburg gently from the ground and, finding his knees unstable, from fright or weakness, stood him against a house wall. Peter Niburg, with rolling eyes, felt for his letter, and, the saints he praised, found it. "Ah !" he said, and straightened tip. "After nil, it is not so bad as I feared. They got nothing." He made a manful effort to walk, but tottered, reeled. Nikky caught him. "Careful !" he said. "The colossus was doubtless the one who got us both, and we are likely to feel his weight for some time. Where do you live?" Peter Niburg was not for saving, lie would have preferred to pursue his solitary if uncertain way. But Nikky was no half Samaritan. Toward Peter Niburg's lodging, then, they made a slow progress. "These recent gentlemen," said Nik ky. as they went along, "they are, per haps, personal enemies?" Peter Niburg reflected. He thought i not. "But I know why they came," he said unguardedly. "Some early morn ing. my friend, you will hear of a man lying dead in the street. That man will bo I." "The thought has a moral," observed j Nikky. "Do not trust yourself out-of- j doors at night." But he saw that Peter Niburg kept | bis hand over his breast pocket. Never having dealt In mysteries, j Nikky was slow at recognizing one. ; But, he reflected, many things were going on in the old city in these trou bled days. Came to Nikky, all at once, that this man on his arm might be one of the hidden eyes of government. "These are difficult times," he ven tured, "for those who are loyal." Peter Niburg gave him a sidelong glance. "Difficult Indeed," he said briefly. "I think," Nikky observed, "that, after I see you safely home, I shall report this small matter to the police." But here Peter Niburg turned even paler. "Not—not the police !" he stammered. "But why? You and I, my friend, will carry their Insignia for some days. I have a mind to pay our debts." Peter Nlburg considered. He stop ped and faced Nikky. "I do not wish the police." he said. "Perhaps I have said too little. This Is a private mat ter. An affair of Jealousy." "I see!" "Naturally, not a matter for pub licity." "Very well," Nikky assented. But in his mind was rising dark suspicion. He had stumbled on something. He cursed his stupidity that it meant, so far, nothing more than a mystery to him. He did not pride himself on his intelligence. "You were not alone, I think?" Peter Niburg suddenly remembered Herman, and stopped. "Your friend must have escaped." "He would escape." said Peter Ni burg scornfully. "He is of the type that runs." He lapsed into sullen silence. Soon he paused before a quiet house, one ! of the many which housed in cavernous depths uncounted clerks and other small fry of the city. "Good night to you." said Toter Niburg. Then, rather tardily. "And my thanks. But for you I should now—" he shrugged his shoulders. "Good night, friend," said Nikky. "And better keep your bed tomorrow." He had turned away and Peter Ni burg entered the house. Nikky inspected himself in the glow of a street lamp. Save for some dust, and a swollen lip, which he could not see, he was not unpresentable. Well enough, anyhow, for the empty streets. But before he started he looked the house and the neighborhood over care fully. He might wish to return to that house. For two hours he walked, and re sumed his Interrupted train of thought. At last, having almost circled the city, he came to the Cathedral. It was nearly midnight by the clock in the high tower. He stopped and consulted his watch. The fancy took him to go up the high steps, and look out over the city from the colonnade. Once there, he*stood leaning against a column, looking out There was someone coming along the quiet streets, with a stealthy, shuffling gait that caught bis attention. So, for in stance, might a weary or a wounded man drag along. Exactly so, indeed, had Peter Niburg shambled Into his house but two hours gone. The footsteps paused, hesitated, commenced a painful struggle up the ascent. Nikky moved behind his col umn, and waited. L T p ami up, weary step after weary step. The shadowy figure, coming close, took a form, be came a man—became Peter Niburg. Now, indeed, Nikky roused. Beaten and sorely bruised, Peter Niburg should have been in bed. What stealthy business of the nigbt brought him out? Fortunately for Nikky's hiding place, the last step or two proved too much for the spy. He groaned, and sat down painfully, near the top. His head lolled forward, and he supported It on two shaking hands. Thus he sat, huddled and miserable, for five min utes or thereabouts. The chime rang out Ute hour. his was fell ing i j j | j ; ! At ten minutes past the hour, Nikky h''nrd the engine of an automobile. machine came in sight, hut the throbbing kept, on, from which he -I'ldg' d that a car had been stopped aro'imi t !i• • < orner. Peter Niburg heard If, ami ruse. A moment later a man, with the springiness of youth, mounted the steps and confronted the messen ger. Niüy saw a great light. When Beter Niburg put his hand to his hniist pueket, there was no longer renm fi, r doubt, nor, fur that matter, time for thinking. As a matter of fact, never afterward eouhl Nikky ro ta!! thinking at all. He moved away quietly, hidden by the shadows of the colonnade. Behind him. tin the steps, the two tin it were talking. Absorbed in themselves ami their business, they neither heard nor saw the figure that slipped through the colonnade, anil dropped, a blood curdling drop, from the high end of it to tin* street be low. Nikky's first impulse, beside the ear, was to eut a tire. By getting his op ponent into a stooping position, over the damaged ......... it would he easier m Jfi PSP* A Sentry Stepped Into the Road. to overcome him. But a hasty search revealed that he had lost his knife in the melee. And second thought gave him a better plan. After nil, to get the letter was not everything. To know its destination would be impor tant. He had no time to think fur ther. The messenger was coming down the steps, not stealthily, but clat tering, with the ring of nails in the heels of heavy boots. Nikky flung his long length into the tonneau, and there crouched. It was dark enough to conceal him, but Nik ky's was a large body In a small place. However, the chauffeur ODly glanced at the car, kicked a tire with a prac ticed foot, and got In. He headed for the open country. ; I j • j ! I • ■ ; » Very soon his passenger knew that he was in for a long ride possibly, a cold j ride certainly. Within the city limits J the car moved decorously, but when the suburbs were reached, the driver put on all his power. He drove care fully, too, as one who must make haste but cannot afford accident. Nikky grew very uncomfortable. His long legs ached. The place be tween the shoulders where the con cierge had landed his powerful blows throbbed and beat. Also he was puzzled, and he hated being puzzled. He was unarmed, too. He disliked that most of all. After a time he raised his head. He made out that they were going east, toward the mountains, and he cursed the luck that had left his revolver at home. Still he lmd no plan but to watch. Two hours' ride, at their pres ent rate, would take them over the border and into Karnia. With a squealing of brakes the ma chine drew up at the frontier. Here was a chain across the highway, with two sets of guards. Long before they reached it, a sentry stepped Into the road and waved his lantern. Nikky burrowed lower into the car, and attempted to look like a rug. In the silence, while the sentry evidently examined a passport and flashed a lantern over the chauffeur, Nikky cursed the ticking of his watch, the beating of his own heart. Then came a clanking as the chain dropped in the road. The car bumped over it, and baited again. The same formalities, this time by Karnian sentries. Then the jerk following a hasty letting-in of the clutch, and they were off again. For some time they climbed steadily. But Nikky, who knew tho mad, hided his time. Then at iast, at two o'clock, came the steep ascent to the very crest of the mountain, and a falling hack, gear by gear, until they climbed slowly in the lowest. Nikky unfolded his length quietly. The gears were grinding, the driver bent low over his wheel. Very de liberately, now that he knew what he was going to do. Nikky unbuttoned his tunic and slipped it off. It was a rash I thing, this plan he had in mind, rash under any circumstances, in a moving ear—particularly rash here, where be tween the cliff and a precipice that fell far away below, was only a wind ing ribbon of uneven road. Nikky, he waited his moment, and then, with one singularly efficient ges ture, he flung his tunic over the chauffeur's head. He drove a car himself, did Nikky—not his own, of course; he was far too poor—and he couured on one thing—an automobile I a the he of in driver acts from the spina! cord, flütf not from the brain. Therefore hlsi brain may be seething with a thousand frenzies, but he will shove out clutch: and brake feet in an emergency, and hold them out. So it happened. The man's hand* left the wheel, but he stopped his ear. Not too soon. Not before if bad struck the eiiff, and then taken a sickening curve out toward the edge of tho precipice. But stop it did, on the very edge of eternity, and the chauffeur held it ttiere. "Set the hand brake!" Nikky said. The lamps were near enough the edge to make him dizzy. The chauffeur censed struggling, and set the hand brake. His head was stiff covered. But having done that, ho commenced a struggle more l'uriou* than forceful, fur both of them wero handicapped. And now Nikky was forced to an! Unsoidierlike tiling that he afterward Tied to forget. For the driver de veloped unexpected strength, refused to submit, got the tunic <>(jr bis head, and. seeing himself attacked by one man only, took courage and fell to. ; U" I'b'ked tip it wrench from the seat I beside him. and made u furious pas* j : »t Nikky s head. Nikky ducked and, • after a struggle secured tho weapon, j All this in the ear, over the seat back. It was then that Nikky raised tho ! wrench and stunned his man with it. ir was hateful. The very dull thud I f it was sickening. And there was a. B;d minute or two when he thought • in ii d ! ill d his opponent. The man ■ had sunk down in his seat, a sodden ; lump of inanimate human flesh. And » Nikky. whose business, in a way, was killing, was horrified. i : '* chauffeur wakened, ton minutes later, to find himself securely tied with his own towing rope, and lying ex tremely close to the edge of death. B side him (in the ground sat a steady eyed young man with a cut lip. The young man had lighted a cigarette, and was placing it carefully in the unin jured side of his mouth. "•Tust as soon as you are up to It," said Nikky, "we shall have a llttla talk." The chauffeur muttered something in the peasant patois of Karnia. "Come, come!" Nikky observed. "Speak up. No hiding behind strange tongues. But first, I have the letter. That saves your worrying about It. You can clear your mind for action." Suddenly Nikky dropped his mocking tone. He was in earnest, grim and deadly earnest. "I have a fancy, my friend," he said, "to take that letter of yours on to Its destination. But what that destination is, you are to tell me." The man on the ground grinned sardonically. "You know better than to ask that," he said. "I will never tell you." Nikky had thought things out fairly well, for him, in that ten minutes. In. a businesslike fashion he turned the prostrate prisoner on his side, 60 that he faced toward the chasm. A late moon showed its depth, and the valley In which the air flowed swiftly. And having thus faced him toward the next world, Nikky, throwing away hi* j cigarette because it hurt his lip. put a J stone or two from the roadway behind I his prisoner, and anchored him there. Then he sat down and waited. "Any news?" he asked, at the end of ten minutes' unbroken silence. His prisoner said nothing. He was thinking, doubtless. Weighing things, too—perhaps life against betrayal, n family against separation. Nikky examined the letter again. It was addressed to a border town In Livonia. But the town lay far behind them. Tho address, then, was a false one. He whistled softly. Half an hour. "Come, come," said Nikky fiercely. 'We are losing time." He looked fierce, too. His swollen lip did that. And he was nervous. It occurred to him that his prisoner, In desperation, might roll over the edge himself, which would be most uncomfortable. But the precipice, and Nikky's fierce lip, and other things, had got In their work. The man on the ground stopped muttering In his patois, and turned on Nikky eyes full of hate. "I will tell you," he said. "A*; will free y emt»Câ nday ondiiy in will free me. ■ And after that ,„ ,» ' "Certainly," xLy replie, ''.V "You will follow me to tT, bt . , onda y the earth—although that « '•*>' '** Deceinbt necessary, because I don't i Monday there—and finish me off." '«inlay in July ly: "Now, where does th*. I have a fancy for delivc.— . -__n self." / "If I teil you. what ther "This: If you tell me pr# the fOOd 01 all goes well, I will return f you. If I do not return, na ; un ® nt8 will not he released. Am ,rts and tb « 1 you meditate a treachery, 1 ** University ; you and leave you, not here, bt.we the a short distance, in the wood wé'Ç'-ScotJ passed. And, because you are a braViat otcerc man. and this thing may be less serfe beet fu* mis than I think it is, I give you on word of honor that if you advise, correctly, I shall return and lib, you." "I have only your word." "And I yours," said Nikky.-- The chauffeur took a final around, as far as he could se « final shuddering look at the C- 1 the Ar. far below. "I will tel HHl-.U A1 -aid sullenly. * « • fa ■•p nr«* Mtotl*. LLE. -— The crown prince and a*. cess Hedwig wait in vain fo. **** return of Nikky, whose d T|k * pearance they are unable to* derstand. Watch for the ~ ' installment. 'Oi.u',;. CTO -BT3 CONTINOaaa* ¥f-