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THE

PRINCESS VIRGINIA

BY

C. N. & A. M. WILLIAMSON

Illustrations by Leon Guipon

NEW YORK
McCLURE, PHILLIPS & CO.
MCMVII




_Copyright, 1907, by McClure, Phillips & Co._

_Published April, 1907_

_Copyright, 1906, 1907, by The Curtis Publishing Company_




_By the same Authors_

_My Friend the Chauffeur_
_Lady Betty Across the Water_
_Rosemary in Search of a Father_




[Illustration: "_Who is that girl?" asked Count von Breitstein_]




CONTENTS


CHAPTER PAGE

I WHEN THE NEWS CAME 3

II FOUR GENTLEMEN OF IMPORTANCE 28

III A CHAMOIS HUNTER 42

IV THE EAGLE'S EYRIE 52

V LEO VERSUS LEOPOLD 82

VI NOT IN THE PROGRAM 98

VII THE HONORS OF THE DAY 117

VIII THE EMPEROR'S BALL 126

IX IRON HEART AT HOME 152

X VIRGINIA'S GREAT MOMENT 174

XI THE MAN WHO WAITED 197

XII "THE EMPEROR WILL UNDERSTAND" 206

XIII THE MAGIC CITRON 214

XIV THE EMPEROR AT BAY 227

XV THROUGH THE TELEPHONE 246

XVI TRUTH ACCORDING TO THE CHANCELLOR 254

XVII THE OLDNESS OF THE CHANCELLOR 279

XVIII NOT AT HOME 291

XIX THE THIRD COURSE 295

XX AFTER THE CURTAIN WENT DOWN 298




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


"WHO IS THAT GIRL?" ASKED COUNT VON
BREITSTEIN _Frontispiece_

FACING
PAGE

SHE LOST HER SCANT FOOTHOLD, SLIPPED,
TRIED TO HOLD ON, FAILED, AND SLID
DOWN THE ROCK 50

"LET THE LAW DEAL WITH THE MADMAN; IT
IS MY WILL" 128

"NEVER!" SHE EXCLAIMED. "IT'S AN INSULT" 194

AT SIGHT OF HER THE EMPEROR STOPPED ON
THE THRESHOLD 292

"WE SHALL NEVER BE OLD, FOR WE LOVE
EACH OTHER," SAID THE EMPEROR 300




THE PRINCESS VIRGINIA




CHAPTER I

WHEN THE NEWS CAME


"No," said the Princess. "No. I'm - _dashed_ if I do."

"My darling child!" exclaimed the Grand Duchess. "You're impossible.
If any one should hear you!"

"It's he who's impossible," the Princess amended. "I'm just trying to
show you - "

"Or to shock me. You are _so_ like your grandmother."

"That's the best compliment any one can give me, which is lucky, as
it's given so often," laughed the Princess. "Dear, adorable Virginia!"
She cuddled into the pink hollow of her hand the pearl-framed ivory
miniature of a beautiful, smiling girl, which always hung from a thin
gold chain around her neck. "They shouldn't have named me after you,
should they, if they hadn't wanted me to be like you?"

"It was partly a question of money, dear," sighed the Grand Duchess.
"If my mother hadn't left a legacy to my first daughter only on
consideration that her own extremely American name of Virginia should
be perpetuated - "

"It was a delicious way of being patriotic. I'm glad she did it. I
love being the only Royal Princess with American blood in my veins and
an American name on my handkerchiefs. Do you believe for an instant
that if Grandmother Virginia were alive, she would let Granddaughter
Virginia marry Prince Henri de Touraine?"

"I don't see why not," said the Grand Duchess. "She wasn't too
patriotic to marry an English Duke, and startle London as the first
American Duchess. Heavens, the things she used to do, if one could
believe half the wild stories my father's sister told me in warning!
And as for my father, though a _most_ charming man, of course, he
could not - er - have been called precisely _estimable_, while Prince
Henri certainly is, and an exceedingly good match even for you - in
present circumstances."

"Call him a match, if you like, Mother. He's undoubtedly a stick. But
no, he's _not_ a match for me. There's only one on earth." And
Virginia's eyes were lifted to the sky as if, instead of existing on
earth, the person in her thoughts were placed as high as the sun that
shone above her.

"I should have preferred an Englishman - for you," said the Grand
Duchess, "if only there were one of suitable rank, free to - "

"I'm not thinking of an Englishman," murmured her daughter.

"If only you _would_ think of poor Henri!"

"Never of him. You know I said I would be d - "

"Don't repeat it! Oh, when you look at me in that way, how like you
are to your grandmother's portrait at home - the one in white, painted
just before her marriage. One might have known you would be
extraordinary. That sort of thing invariably skips over a generation."

The Grand Duchess laid down the theory as a law; and whether or no she
were right, it was at least sure that she had inherited nothing of the
first Virginia's daring originality. Some of her radiant mother's
beauty, perhaps, watered down to gentle prettiness, for the Hereditary
Grand Duchess of Baumenburg-Drippe at fifty-one was still a
daintily-attractive woman, a middle-aged Dresden china lady, with a
perfect complexion, preserved by an almost perfect temper; surprised
eyebrows, kindly dimples, and a conventional upper lip.

She was not by birth "Hereditary." Her lord and (very much) her master
had been that, and had selected her to help him reign over the
Hereditary Grand Duchy of Baumenburg-Drippe, not only because her
father was an English Duke with Royal Stuart blood in his veins,
but because her Virginian mother had brought much gold to the
Northmoreland exchequer. Afterwards, he had freely spent such portion
of that gold as had come to his coffers, in trying to keep his little
estates intact; but now it was all gone, and long ago he had died of
grief and bitter disappointment; the Hereditary Grand Duchy of
Baumenburg-Drippe was ruled by a cousinly understudy of the German
Emperor William the Second; the one son of the marriage had been
adopted, as heir to his crown, by the childless King of Hungaria; the
handsome and lamentably extravagant old Duke of Northmoreland was
dead; his title and vast estates had passed to a distant and
disagreeable relative; and the widowed Grand Duchess, with her one
fair daughter, had lived for years in a pretty old house with a
high-walled garden, at Hampton Court, lent by the generosity of the
King and Queen of England.

For a long moment the Dresden china lady thought in silence and
something of sadness. Then she roused herself again and asked the one
and only Royal Princess with an American name what, in the way of a
match, she really expected.

"What do I expect?" echoed Virginia. "Why, I _wish_ for the Moon - no,
I mean the Sun. But I don't expect to get it."

"Is that a way of saying you never intend to marry?"

"I'm afraid it amounts to that," admitted Virginia, "since there is
only one man in the world I would have for my husband."

"My dearest! A man you have let yourself learn to care for? A man
beneath you? How terrible! But you see no one. I - "

"I've never seen this man. And - I'm not 'in love' with him; that would
be too foolish. Because, instead of being beneath, he's far, far above
me."

"Virginia! Of whom can you be talking? Or is this another joke?"

Virginia blushed a little, and instead of answering her mother's look
of helpless appeal, stared at the row of tall hollyhocks that blazed
along the ivy-hidden garden wall. She did not speak for an instant,
and then she said with the dainty shyness of a child pinned to a
statement by uncomprehending elders, "It isn't a joke. Nonsense,
maybe - yet not a joke. I've always thought of him - for so many years
I've forgotten when it first began. He's so great, so - everything that
appeals to me; how could I help thinking about him, and putting him on
a pedestal? I - there's no idea of marriage in my mind, of course.
Only - there's no other man possible, after all the thoughts I've given
him. No other man in the world."

"My dear, you _must_ tell me his name."

"What, when I've described him - almost - do you still need to hear his
name? Well then, I - I'm not ashamed to tell. It's 'Leopold.'"

"Leopold! You're talking of the Emperor of Rhaetia."

"As if it could have been any one else."

"And you have thought of him - you've cherished him - for years - as an
ideal! Why, you never spoke of him particularly before."

"That's because you never seriously wanted me to take a husband until
this prim, dull French Henri proposed himself. My thoughts were my
own. I wouldn't have told, only - you see why."

"Of course. My precious child, how extremely interesting, and - and
romantic." Again the Grand Duchess lapsed into silence. Yet her
expression did not suggest a stricken mind. She merely appeared
astonished, with an astonishment that might turn into an emotion more
agreeable.

Meanwhile it was left for Virginia to look vexed, vexed with herself.
She wished that she had not betrayed her poor little foolish
secret - so shadowy a secret that it was hardly worthy of the name. Yet
it had been precious - precious since childhood, precious as the
immediate jewel of her soul, because it had been the jewel of her
soul, and no one else had dreamed of its existence. Now she had shown
it to other eyes - almost flaunted it. Never again could it be a joy to
her.

In the little room, half study, half boudoir, which was her own, there
was a desk, locked in her absence, where souvenirs of the young
Emperor of Rhaetia had been accumulating for years. There were
photographs which Virginia had contrived to buy secretly; portraits of
Leopold from an early age, up to the present, when he was shown as a
tall, dark, cold-eyed, warm-lipped, firm-chinned young man of thirty.
There were paragraphs cut from newspapers, telling of his genius as a
soldier, his prowess as a mountaineer and hunter of big game, with
dramatic anecdotes of his haughty courage in time of danger, his
impulsive charities, his well thought out schemes for the welfare of
his subjects in every walk of life.

There were black and white copies of bold, clever pictures he had
painted; there was martial music composed by him, and plaintive
folk-songs adapted by him, which Virginia had tried softly to herself
on her little piano, when nobody was near. There were reports of
speeches made by him since his accession to the Throne; accounts of
improvements in guns, and an invention of a new explosive; there was a
somewhat crude, yet witty play which he had written; and numerous
other records of the accomplishments and achievements, and even
eccentricities which had built up the Princess Virginia's ideal of
this celebrated young man, proclaimed Emperor after the great
revolution eight years ago.

"You are worthy to be an Empress."

Her mother's voice broke into Virginia's thoughts. She started, and
found herself under inspection by the Grand Duchess. At first she
frowned, then she laughed, springing up on a quick impulse to turn
earnest into jest, and so perhaps escape further catechising.

"Yes, would I not make an Empress?" she echoed, stepping out from the
shadow of her favorite elm, into the noontide radiance of summer.

The sun poured over her hair, as she stood with uplifted head, and
threaded it with a network of living gold, gleaming into the dark gray
eyes rimmed with black lashes and turning them to jewels. Her fair
skin was as flawless in the unsparing light as the petals of lilies,
and her features, though a repetition of those which had made a
Virginia girl famous long ago, were carved with Royal perfection.

"There is no real reason why you should not make an Empress, dearest,"
said her mother, in pride of the girl's beauty, and desiring,
womanlike, to promote her child's happiness. "Stranger things have
happened. Only last week, at Windsor, the dear Queen was saying what
a pity poor Henri was not more - but no matter, he is well enough.
However, if - And when one comes to think of it, it's perhaps not
unnatural that Leopold of Rhaetia has never been mentioned for you,
although there could be nothing against the marriage. What a match for
any woman! A supreme one. Not a Royal girl but would go on her knees
to him, if - "

"I wouldn't," said Virginia. "I might worship him, yet he should go on
his knees to _me_."

"I doubt if those proud knees of his will ever bend in homage to man
or woman," replied the Grand Duchess. "But that's a mere fantasy. I'm
serious now, darling, and I very much wish you would be."

"Please, I'd rather not," smiled Virginia, uneasily. "Let us not talk
of the Emperor any more - and never again after this, Mother. You know
now. That's all that's necessary, and - "

"But it's not all that's necessary. You have put the idea into my
head, and it's not an unpleasing idea. Besides, it has evidently been
in _your_ head for a long time - and - I should like to see you
happy - see you in a position such as you're entitled to grace. You
are a very beautiful girl (there's no disguising that from you, as
you know you are the image of your grandmother, who was a celebrated
beauty) and the best blood in Europe runs in your veins. You are
royal, and yet - and yet our circumstances are such that - in fact, for
the present, we're somewhat handicapped."

"We're beggars," said Virginia, laughing; but it was not a happy
laugh.

"Cophetua married the beggar maid," the Grand Duchess reminded her,
with elaborate playfulness. "And, you know, all sorts of things have
happened in history - much stranger than any one would dare put in
fiction, if writing of Royalties. My dear husband was second cousin
once removed to the German Emperor, though he was treated - but we
mustn't speak of that. The subject always upsets me. What I was
leading up to, is this; though there may be other girls who, from a
worldly point of view, are more desirable; still, you're _strictly_
within the pale from which Leopold is entitled to choose his wife, and
if - "

"Dear little Mother, there's no such 'if.' And as for me, _I_ wasn't
thinking of a 'worldly point of view.' The Emperor of Rhaetia barely
knows that I exist. And even if by some miracle he should suddenly
discover that little Princess Virginia Mary Victoria Alexandra
Hildegarde of Baumenburg-Drippe was the one suitable wife for him on
earth, I wouldn't have him want me because I was 'suitable,'
but - because I was irresistible. I'd want his love - all his love - or I
would say 'no, you must look somewhere else for your Empress.'"

"But that's nonsense, darling. Royal people seldom or never have the
chance to fall in love," said the Grand Duchess.

"I'm tired of being Royal," snapped the Princess. "Being Royal does
nothing but spoil all one's fun, and oblige one to do stupid, boring
things, which one hates."

"Nevertheless, noblesse _does_ oblige," went on the Dresden china
prophetess of conventionality. "When alliances are arranged for women
of our position, we must content ourselves with the hope that love may
come after marriage. Or if not, we must go on doing our duty in that
state of life to which Heaven has graciously called us."

"Bother duty!" broke out Virginia. "Thank goodness, in these days not
all the king's horses and all the king's men can make even a Princess
marry against her will. I _hate_ that everlasting cant about 'duty in
marriage.' When people love each other, they're kind and good, and
sweet and true, because it's a joy, not because it's a duty. And
that's the only sort of loyalty worth having between men and women,
according to me. I wouldn't accept anything else from a man; and I
should despise him if he were less - or more - exacting."

"Virginia, the way you express yourself is almost improper. I'm
thankful that no one hears you except myself," said the Grand Duchess.
But at this moment, when clash of tongues and opinions seemed
imminent, there occurred a happy diversion in the arrival of letters.

Virginia, who was a neglectful correspondent, had nothing; but two or
three important looking envelopes claimed attention from the Grand
Duchess, and as soon as the ladies were once more alone together in
the sweet-scented garden, she broke the crown-stamped seal of her son
Adalbert, now by adoption Crown Prince of Hungaria.

"Open the others for me, dear," she demanded, excitedly, "while I see
what Dal has to say." And Virginia leisurely obeyed, wondering whether
Dal's news would by-and-by be passed on to her. It was always an event
when a long letter came from him; and the Grand Duchess invariably
laughed and exclaimed, and sometimes blushed as she read; but when she
blushed, the letter was not given to the Crown Prince's sister.

There was a note to-day from an old friend of her mother's of whom
Virginia was fond, and she had just begun to be interested in the
third paragraph, all about an adorable Dandy Dinmont puppy, when an
odd, half-stifled ejaculation from the Grand Duchess made the girl
lift her eyes.

"Has Dal been having something beyond the common in the way of
adventures?" she inquired dryly.

Her mother did not answer; but she had grown pink and then pale.

Virginia began to be uneasy. "What is the matter? Is anything wrong?"
she asked.

"No - nothing in the least wrong. Far from it, indeed. But - oh, my
child!"

"Mother dear, what is it?"

"Something so extraordinary - so wonderful - I mean, as a
coincidence - that I can hardly speak. I suppose I can't be dreaming?
You are really talking to me in the garden, aren't you?"

"I am, and I wish you were telling me the mystery. Do, dear. You look
awake, only rather odd."

"It would be strange if I didn't look odd. Dal says - Dal says - "

"What has he been doing? Getting engaged?"

"No. It is - your Emperor, not Dal, who talks of being engaged."

"Oh," said Virginia, trying not to speak blankly, trying not to flush,
trying not to show in any way the sudden sick pain in her heart.

Of course she was not in love with him. Of course, though she had been
childish enough long ago to make him her ideal, and foolishly faithful
enough to keep him so, she had always known that he would never be
more to her than a Shadow Emperor. Some day he would marry one of
those other Royal girls who were so much more suitable than she; that
would be natural and right, as she had more than once told herself
with no conscious pang. But now that the news had come - now that the
Royal girl was actually chosen, and she must hear the letter and read
about the happy event in the newspapers, it was different. She felt
suddenly cold and sick under the blow; hurt and defrauded, and even
jealous. She knew that she would hate the girl - some wretched,
commonplace girl, with stick-out teeth, perhaps, or no figure, and no
idea of the way to wear her clothes or do her hair.

But she swallowed hard, and clenched her fingers under the voluminous
letter about Dandy Dinmont. "Oh, so our friend is going to be
married?" she remarked lightly.

"That depends," replied the Grand Duchess, laughing mysteriously, with
a catch in her voice, as if she had been a nervous girl. "That
depends. You must guess - but no, I won't tease you. My dear, my dear,
after Dal's letter, coming as it has in the midst of such a
conversation, I shall be a firm believer in telepathy. This letter, on
its way to us, must have put the thoughts into our minds, and the
words on our tongues. It may be that the Emperor of Rhaetia will
marry; it may not. For, my sweet, beautiful girl, it depends
upon - you."

"Me?" The voice did not sound to Virginia like her own. Was she too,
dreaming? Were they both in a dream?

"He wishes to marry you."

All the letters dropped from Virginia's lap, dropped, and fluttered to
the grass slowly, like falling rose leaves. Scarcely knowing what she
did, she clasped her hands over the young bosom shaken with the sudden
throbbing of her heart. Perhaps such a betrayal of feeling by a Royal
maiden decorously sued (by proxy) for her hand, was scarcely correct;
but Virginia had no thought for rules of conduct, as laid down for her
too often by her mother.

"He wishes to marry - me?" she echoed, dazedly. "Why?"

"Providence must have drawn your inclination toward him, dearest. It
is indeed a romance. Some day, no doubt, it will be told to the world
in history."

"But how did he - " Virginia broke off, and began again: "Did he tell
this to Dal, and ask him to write you?"

"Not - not precisely that," admitted the Grand Duchess, her face
changing from satisfaction to uneasiness. For Virginia was difficult
in some ways, though adorable in others, and held such peculiar ideas
about life - inherited from her American grandmother - that it was
impossible to be sure how she would receive the most ordinary
announcements.

The Princess's rapt expression faded, like the passing of dawn.

"Not precisely that?" she repeated. "Then what - how - "

"Well, perhaps - though it's not strictly the correct thing - you had
better read your brother's letter for yourself."

Virginia put her hands behind her back with a childish gesture, and a
frightened look came into the eyes which at most times gazed bravely
upon the world. "I - somehow I can't," she said. "Please tell me."

"To begin with, then, you know what an admiration Dal has felt for
Count von Breitstein, ever since that diplomatic visit the Rhaetian
Chancellor paid to Hungaria. The fancy seemed to be mutual; but then,
who could ever resist Dal, if he wanted to be liked? The Chancellor
has written to him from time to time, and Dal has quite enjoyed the
correspondence; the old man can be witty as well as cynical if he
chooses, and Dal says he tells good stories. Now it seems (in the
informal way in which such affairs are usually put forward) that Count
von Breitstein has written confidentially to Dal, as our only near
male relative, asking how your family would regard an alliance between
Leopold and you, or if we have already disposed of your hand. At last
the Emperor is inclined to listen to his Chancellor's advice and
marry, and you, as a Protestant Princess - "

"A Protestant Princess, indeed!" cried Virginia. "I protest against
being approached by him on such terms."

The face of the Grand Duchess was darkened by the gloom of her
thoughts. "My daughter," she exclaimed mildly, yet despairingly, "it's
not possible that when this wonderful chance - this unheard of
chance - this chance that you were praying for - actually falls into
your hands, you will throw it away for - for a sentimental, school-girl
scruple?"

"I was not praying for it," said Virginia. "I'm sure, Mother, _you_
would have considered it most bold in me to pray for it. And I didn't.
I was only refusing other chances."

"Well, at all events, you have this one now. It is yours."

"Not in the one way I should have loved to see it come. Oh, Mother,
why does the Emperor want to marry me? Isn't there some other reason
than just because I'm a proper, Protestant Princess?"

"Of course," insisted the Grand Duchess, faintly encouraged. "Dal
mentions several most excellent reasons in his letter - if you would
only take them sensibly."

"I should like to hear them, at all events," answered Virginia.

"Well, you see the Empress of Rhaetia must be a Protestant, and there
aren't many eligible Protestant girls who would be acceptable to the
Rhaetians - girls who would be popular with the people. Oh, I have
finished about that! You need not look so desperate. Besides, Dal
explains that Leopold is a young man who dominates all around him. He
wishes to take for his bride a girl who could not by any possibility
herself be heiress to a throne. Dal fancies that his desire is to mold
his wife, and therefore to take a girl without too many important and
importunate relatives; for he is not one who would dream of adding to
his greatness by using the wealth or position of a woman. He has all
he needs, or wants, of that sort. And then, Dal reminds me, Leopold
is very partial to England, who helped Rhaetia passively, in the time
of her trouble eight years ago. The fact that you have lived in


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Online LibraryA. M. (Alice Muriel) WilliamsonThe Princess Virginia → online text (page 1 of 14)