Albert Ross.

A sugar princess online

. (page 16 of 19)
Online LibraryAlbert RossA sugar princess → online text (page 16 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

him softly.

" Carl ! Do you reject me?"

"Yes!" he retorted, fiercely, flinging t)he word at
her as he vanished.

The Sugar Princess sank into a chair on the veran-
da. Had she played her great game and lost? Had
she forgotten her maidenly reserve, all to no purpose ?
Was Mr. Love joy wrong, after all ? She was the most
wretched of human beings.




THERE was certainly no reason for staying longer at
Kusatsu ; and Miss Van Steuben elected to go on over
the mountain pass known as Shibu-toge. From Shi-
bu they could easily reach the railway and return to
Ikao, with less fatigue.

Nobody was likely to raise any objections to which-
ever path she chose. Mr. Loring was glad to go to
Shibu, where he hoped to hear something of Thorn,
who was to pass that way. Having undertaken to as-
sist the fugitive he was anxious that the flight should
be successful. Besides, he felt a chivalrous interest
in Olive, whose legitimate protector was now in no
position to aid her. As for Carl, he counted the days
when all this was to end and he could seek some less
disagreeable method of earning his living.

The start was made rather early in the morning. The
procession moved slowly, as the road was not very
good and it was necessary to adopt the old single file
manner of march. Carl started his horse first, in the
hope that he could get a lead which would prevent con-
versation, but Amy's animal followed his as if it un-
derstood her wishes. When they reached the top of
the first range of hills she made several enthusiastic
references to the scenery, which fully justified her en-


coniums. Carl's replies were so monosyllabic that they
clearly showed the state of his feelings.

"You ought not to be angry with me," she said,
after several "yes" and "no" answers on his part.
"If you act like this you will spoil my whole trip."

"I cannot forget so easily," he answered. "We shall
get along better if you will remember that we are not
in any social sense on equal terms. I ask you as a
favor not to amuse yourself at my expense again."

"I never did. You were the one who found amuse-
ment in an honest statement of fact. You had a right
to refuse my offer, but I think you might at least treat
me kindly."

"I have no more to say," replied Carl, in a tired
voice. "If you continue in that vein you must not
expect me to answer."

Amy stole a glance at him.

"It's a bargain," she replied. "I'm going to talk to
you, then, and you are merely to listen. The others
are so far behind that neither will hear a word. To
begin, I said nothing to you yesterday that I did not
mean. I know I am a strange gifl. I never heard of
another one doing a thing like tlhat. People say I al-
ways was peculiar, that I never act as anyone would
expect. Papa calls me his 'Wild Goose' and I guess
that's a good name for me. When I've had to refuse
offers of marriage it has always hurt my feelings. I've
not got a hard heart like some people I could men-
tion, if I wanted to be personal."

His lips were pressed closely together and his form
bent over in the saddle.


"I fell in love with you a very long time ago," the
speaker continued in a monotone. " I daresay you have
forgotten it, but I never have and never shall. I was

out in a boat with Mr. Loring and Billy," Carl

started as if shot " oh, you do remember! We were
run down by a tug and I was thrown into the water.
'And when I came up from under those waves your
strong arm was around my waist and your wet mous-
tache was pressed against my cheek."

He had not 1 looked for anything as hard as this. She
was making fun of the most sacred of his recollec-

"Before the men in the tug boat had taken me from
your arms my heart was gone. When they had me
safe on board I expected every moment that I should
hear the manly voice of my rescuer inquiring into my
condition. But there was nothing of the kind ; when I
sat up and looked around he was nowhere to be seen.
Not a very agreeable situation, was it ? I had met the
only man I ever loved and lost him again, all within
five minutes. I put an advertisement in the papers
offering a reward, thinking that might attract his at-
tention. If he should prove the kind of man who
would take money for the service he had rendered I
would speedily find myself cured of my infatuation.
If, on the contrary, as I hoped and believed, he would
spurn the proposition, I intended to throw myself on
his neck crying, 'Darling, I am yours !' "

And while he had sat in his room, dreaming of that
vision of beauty, and cursing the fate that placed her
out of his reach, she had been ridiculing him in this


fashion! He would not interrupt her. Nothing she
could say could wound him more.

"But you did not come. The instant your clinging
arms left my waist you forgot me. Such is the nature
of the sex to which you belong. And yet you had some
excuse, for you had lost your dearest friend and was
bending every effort toward his recovery. When I
learned this I said to myself, 'He may be after all
worthy to be my idol to fill the vacant niche in my
young heart.' Then we came to Honolulu on the
same steamer. Dear old Mr. Lovejoy told me all he
could learn about you. I began to feel sure I had
made no mistake. Alas, how easily one may be de-
ceived! Time went on. We happened to take the
same boat to Hawaii. There the distressing event hap-
pened which "

Mr. Muller turned to the girl with a face like marble.

"Please omit references to that point," he said,
sepulchurally. "There are some things I cannot bear.'*

"I sincerely beg your pardon." After a slight
pause Amy continued : "You will at least let me say
that your conduct excited my admiration. On the way
to the Volcano I sought any excuse to be near you.
You went with Mr. Lindes into a place of danger and
for a few moments I feared you had perished. Ignor-
ing all warnings I hastened after you, determined
either to save or die at your side. My strength gave
way and again I felt your arms around me, your pres-
ence the one barrier between me and death. I was
more than ever determined that if possible I would
teach you to love me as I loved you."


The soft cadence of the young woman's voice came
to Carl's ears like unholy music. She seemed to him
a beautiful serpent that fascinates before it strikes.
He would have tried once more to silence her, but his
tcngne clung to the roof of his mouth.

"Then came the trip to Japan. Mr. Lovejoy en-
gaged you by my request yes, that is the simple
truth. Papa had already, I think, guessed my secret
and approved my choice. Mamma wanted me to mar-
ry some gentleman of rank, but I had no idea of doing
anything of the kind. There have been times when I
thought you cared for me arid would yet teli me so.
Again you have seemed to avoid, even to dislike me.
I planned this trip we are now taking to settle the
question definitely. I have settled it."

Her voice had sunk so low that it was scarcely
audible. The young man waited for what he felt sure
would follow a peal of laughter at the part she was
playing. If she wanted to think she had beguiled him
into believing anything she said, that she might make
his discomfiture complete by turning him to ridicule,
it would be quite as well. The woman he had loved
was a myth. This heartless creature had usurped her
place. He would bear his pain all the better, knowing
that his ideal enchantress had never existed.

But the peal of laughter did not come. Instead a
complete silence followed. Presently he became aware
that Miss Van Steuben's horse was not following his
and, glancing uneasily back, he saw that slhe had stop-
ped in the path and was apparently waiting for the
Others. Feeling that in his capacity of guide he ought


not to leave her alone even for a few minutes, he turn-
ed and walked his horse slowly toward her.

Suddenly a scream of terror came from the girl's
lips and at the same instant Carl saw what had caused
it. A serpent, quite eight feet in length, was making
its way slowly across the path in front of her.

Now the serpents of Japan are not as a rule danger-
ous to the human species. No doubt this one was
quite as badly frightened as Amy, when she gave ut-
terance to that piercing shriek. Carl saw, however,
that her fright might have one serious consequence.
She was reeling in her saddle and her stupid betto was
making no move to save her from the fall that seemed
imminent. Springing to the ground Carl ran to her
side, whereupon she fell into his arms in the most ap-
proved fashion and for a moment quite lost conscious-

Neither of the others who belonged to the party
was near enough to hear the scream or see the
commotion. The coolies looked on stolidly. As there
was no water at hand, the road being too high up on
the mountains, Carl laid his burden gently on the herb-
age and began to slap her hands briskly, as the quick-
est means of restoring her circulation. Presently she
moved slightly and her eyes opened. Then the recol-
lection of what had caused her terror returned and she
grasped her protector's arm spasmodically.

" Don't let it touch me!" she cried, faintly. "Carl,
Carl ! Don't let it touch me !"

"It has gone ; there is nothing to fear," he respond-
ed, coldly. "Are you able to sit up?"


She looked about her and saw for the first time

that she was not in the saddle.

"What a horrible thing it was!" she said, closing
her eyes at the recollection. "Did I fall from the horse ?
I don't feel bruised."

The figures of the remaining members of tihe party
appeared in the distance and Carl was about to call to
them when she raised an objection.

"I don't think we had better tell them about the
snake/' she said. "It might frighten Ollie and it can
do no good. I was awfully silly to be alarmed, but
really it was a dreadful looking thing. I know," she
went on, with a little sob, "you are very angry with
me, but you might help me to rise when I am so

He assisted her to her feet and she leaned her weight
upon him till the others were near. When Lisette
started to dismount Amy bade her remain where she
was. She said she had had a slight attack of dizzi-
ness but was all right now. There happened to be a
tea-house a short distance away and the new arrivals
went on to it to order some light refreshment pre-

After a few minutes Carl lifted Amy into her sad-
dle and then walked by her side, holding her on.

"Are you never going to forgive me?" she mur-

"If you won't say such things again I will try," he
answered, gloomily.

"But I must say them again," she said, putting her



hand on his arm. "I must say them again and again
and AGAIN, for they are TRUE."

Her voice sunk as low as a zephyr and her sweet
breath fanned his cheek. "I love you, Carl. I love
you! I love you!"




THERE was something in the timbre of the voice that
stirred the young man's soul. He turned toward the
speaker as if in a dream and involuntarily held out his
hand. She clasped it with a convulsive movement that
spoke more than words. Before Carl Muller's swim-
ming eyes the world seemed vanishing into space. He
met the ripe lips that bent down to him ; and a kiss as
sweet as the honey of Hybla and delicate as the wing
of a butterfly sealed the unspoken troth.

For several minutes they rode on with their hands
clasped and then Amy's was gently withdrawn. She
did not mean to attract the attention of her fellow
traveler and the tea-house was now within sight.
During the time spent for rest she chatted in her or-
dinary manner with Mr. Loring and Olive, who seem-
ed in very good spirits. They were indeed too deeply
engrossed in each other to pay much attention to what
anyone else was doing.

The descent into the village of Shibu would have
revealed some wonderful scenery to people who had
eyes for anything but each other. But to Carl and
Amy there was nothing worth seeing at the present
moment but the companion who rode near. The others


loitered behind, either purposely or by accident, leav-
ing them quite alone with their coolies.

At points where the road grew slippery and stony
they dismounted and walked for some distance, fear-
ing that the ponies might fall under their weight. Carl
helped Amy over many places where her little feet
could not otherwise pass dry shod. Sometimes he car-
ried her bodily for a few rods, declaring in response
to her protests that she was like a feather to him. It
pleased her to have his strength exerted for her bene-
fit, and she knew well that she formed no heavy bur-
den for a man of his physique.

About four o'clock they came to a second tea-
house, where the coolies stopped to rest and to feed
their horses and the young couple proceeded on foot,
the road having grown much better. There is such
sweetness in being entirely alone with those we love!
And yet, though one would think there must be much
to say and many things to explain, neither made the
least reference to the great subject that occupied their
minds. They talked of the scenery and the climate,
even of far-off Honolulu. There are thoughts too
deep for utterance and both were well content to
postpone all explanations to a future day.

Before reaching Shibu the coolies overtook them
and they remounted their animals. The other three
travelers did not arrive till nearly an hour later than
they. Whether or not Lisette had received a hint not
to ride too near her mistress I will leave the reader to
guess, for his opinion on that matter is quite as like-
ly to be correct as mine.


The next morning the excursionists took 'ric'-.shas
to Toyono, from which they decided to go direct to
Tokyo. Amy sent a telegram to her mother asking
her to join them at the capital, and knew she would
be only too glad to do so. Cars had to be changed at
Tagasaki and the delays were so great that Tokyo
was not reached until ten in the evening.

Arriving at the Imperial Hotel it was learned that
Mrs. Van had not arrived, but a dispatch was received
from her, stating that she would start on the following
morning-. The telegram closed with the mysterious
words, "If Mr. L. is with you, do not commit your-
self. Something important has happened." Amy
smiled softly as she read the words. She wondered
what her mother would say if she knew what had "hap-
pened"' of much more importance than anything she
referred to.

Carl bade her good-night in a steady voice, avoid-
ing looking directly at her for fear Lisette might no-
tice something unusual in his eyes. Amy thought it
hard, but realized that he could not act differently
with discretion. When her chamber door closed upon
her and the maid, she threw her arms around Lisette
and sobbed, "Oh, I'm so miserable and so happy!"

Just before Mr. Loring retired a note was brought
to him and a few minutes later he had walked a short
distance from the hotel to meet its author. Out of
the shadow Capt. Thorn came to meet him.

"Have you brought it?" he asked, nervously.

Mr. Loring drew a paper from his pocket, which
Thorn inspected anxiously by the aid of a cigar light-


er. "Thirty years of age," he read, "five feet eight
inches in height, weight 1 1 stone 6, dark hair and eyes,
mustache, no beard."

"Eleven stone six is 160 pounds," he commented,
making a mental calculation. "Your description might
have been made for me. Are you sure it can get you
into no trouble if I use your passport?"

"You are very welcome to it," replied the English-
man. "Don't try to go to the United States at present,
however. Take a steamer to Hongkong and proceed
from there by easy stages. If you need further as-
sistance and will write to me I will gladly render it."

Thorn grasped the extended hand.

"I don't know how to thank you enough," he said.
"The money you have loaned me shall be a debt of the
most sacred honor. As soon as possible I will repay
it with interest."

"Good-night. It may be dangerous for us to be
seen talking together." And, with another caution to
lose no time in leaving the country, Loring withdrew.

Among the earliest guests of the Imperial to arise
the next morning was Carl Muller. He had been too
much perturbed to sleep very soundly. As he passed
out of the hotel he encountered a familiar face that
caused him to start in surprise. The owner of the
face walked straight toward him, seeming delighted
at the meeting.

"Speak of the devil !" exclaimed the new-comer. "I
was just wondering where in this queer country you
were hiding and if I should be lucky enough to run
across you. I'm more than glad to set eyes on you


again ! You haven't forgotten Barney Summer Bar-
ney of San Francisco?"

"No, indeed! But what on earth are you doing

"Something it will interest you to know. You re-
member old Pyne, the detective of course you do.
Well, I'm here on an errand of his. You see, my best
girl went back on me the fortune I was expecting to
make didn't come quite as rapidly at it should and
when she gave me the mitten I lost my heart and job
at the same time. For a few months I wasn't good for
anything. Pyne knew the shape I was in and one day
he sent for me. 'How would you like to be a detec-
tive?' says he. Td as lief be that as anything else,' I
answered. 'My life is shattered. It makes no differ-
ence how low in the social scale I fall.' He wanted a
man to go to Japan and hunt up a missing party.
Funniest thing to send me on an errand of that kind,
wasn't it? but he was short-handed, and I reaped the
benefit. I've only been in the country a few days
and the place is so interesting I haven't been able to
attend to business at all."

The listener was obliged to smile in spite of him-
self. It did look a rather queer selection.

"Have you given up becoming a great writer of
romance?" he inquired.

"Not at all ; only postponed it. If you'd helped me
out with that plot I started on ! I have a literary friend
and we've talked it over often. He's a Pole, one with a
capital P, I mean, and he says if I could only bring it
to the right finish it would beat all the stories


written in this century. I have already used up half
a ream about Mr. Meyer's disappearance, the erup-
tion on Mauna Loa, saving the lady from drown-
ing (I idealized that, to make it look original) and
finally going off to the Orient in her party, as Mr.
Pyne told me you did. I'm sure you're going to dis-
tinguish yourself, before you get through, and the
manuscript may come handy while the newspapers are
full of your exploits."

"Exploits?" repeated Carl, puzzled.

"Certainly. I can't have my work ruined merely
because you won't attend to your part of the business.
It you don't attract public attention in some striking
way pretty soon I shall invent something and tack it
on to you. I hoped you would come back and take
possession of Dhat big estate, cutting a swath that would
attract attention. I know what I'd do if I had half of
it!" Mr. Barney rolled his eyes and smacked his lips
in anticipation. "As you didn't, I pushed the fiction
for all it was worth. According to my plot you've got
to have a big fortune. If you won't take it from St.
Louis you must get it somewhere else. It is also
necessary to the romance that you marry the Hawai-
ian beauty!"

A strong hand was on his arm and a warning look
was shot into his eyes. The lig^ht way in which he spoke
cut his hearer to the quick.

"Oh, don't get mad with me for trying to earn an
honest living!" Barney exclaimed, edging away. "If
I want to give you a pot of money on paper I'm
going to do it My latest idea is to have you fall heir


to some relation abroad you've got relations abroad,
haven't you?"

There was no use in getting angry with the fellow,
who had once rendered him a service. Carl humored
him by saying that he supposed he had kin beyond
seas, though he knew nothing definite about them.

"I was sure of it !" was the joyful answer. "What
is more natural than that one of your relations should
die and leave his vast estates to you? And in the
interests of entertaining fiction, why mightn't he be a
nobleman, just as well as not? It can't do any harm
if I should even make you a Count; it will be all the
more reason in the story why the girl you love (in
the story again) should accept your hand. To make it
more aristocratic I think I will call you 'von Muller.'
I should like to know if there is any solid dbjedtibn
to that?"

They had walked some distance down the street
and stood on the banks of a moat which enclosed
grounds sacred to rovalty. It was but a short space in
width, but the barriers were high and firm. Carl
thought with a sigh that just such a moat and wall
must separate him forever from the 'desire of his soul
Love him as she might, there was nothing more im-
possible on earth than that he should become Amy
Van Steuben's husband.

"Our family was originally called 'von Muller,' " he
said, thoughtfully.

"Of course it was ; and they had estates big ones
somewhere in it wasn't Breslau, was it?"

" It was Breslau; who told you?" was the aston-
ished query.


" Why, it might as well be Breslau as anywhere;
and your great-uncle might die there worth more than
six million florins. And if there are no nearer rela-
tions, his lawyers might send to America to hunt you
up putting their case in the hands of, let us say,
Maple & Pyne. It's easy to suppose things when one
gets to writing imaginative fiction. With a fortune
of your own almost as big as that of your beloved's
papa, you could ask for her hand (in a novel) wifth
reasonable certainty of having the proposal fairly con-
sidered. Oh," pursued Barney, picking up a stone and
jetting it into the water of the moat, "I'll fix you all
right (in my romance) if you'll let me."

There was something mysterious in the way the
young fellow said these things and Carl felt a strange
sensation going through his brain. After a moment
of silence he shivered and caught his breath, as he real-
ized the folly of such a tissue of improbabilities. He
turned back toward the Imperial and Barney return-
ed with him.

"I suppose the mission on which Mr. Pyne sent
you here is a secret," he remarked, presently.

"Not to you; though I'd rather you wouldn't men-
tion it to your friends for the present. Indeed, I
hope you will be able to give me a little help in the
matter. The fact is, Pyne has never given up the
belief that Peter Meyer is living and he thinks he's
here in Japan somewhere."

A look of the most intense pain came into the list-
ener's face.

"Mr. Meyer is dead !" he said, hoarsely. "There is


ao doubt about it. If you had seen, as I did, the aw-
ful river of burning lava in which he was engulfed,
you would not for a second doubt that."

"Well, Pyne won't believe it," replied Barney, "and
he's risked a thousand dollars of his money to back
up his opinion. He's got reason to suspect that the
old gentleman took passage in a sailing vessel from
Lapahoehoe two days after Lindes lost sight of 'him
and was a passenger on a Tacomfa steamer for Yoko-
hama a few weeks later. If he's wrong it's the first
time. Anyway, I've got to satisfy myself about a few
points that he wants me to look up and I'll be much
obliged if you'll give me a lift."

There was something awful to Carl in the flippant
manner with which Barney discussed the question; it
was almost like prying open a tomb.

"I tell you, solemnly, I know he is dead !" he replied.
"I have seen his spirit, plainly and distinctly."

Barney uttered a long whistle.

"If you'll take me to the place where you saw that,
and give me the date of the apparition, I won't trouble
you much further !" he cried, excitedly. "I can do the
rest myself."




MRS. VAN was not in an entirely happy frame of
mind. She had been so thoroughly convinced, upon
hearing of his arrest, that "Lord Loring" was a swind-
ler, that she had treated him in a most disgraceful man-
ner. Later information caused her to think he was
merely Dhe victim of a mistake on the part of the de-
tectives. She was now divided between those two be-
liefs. If he was an innocent man, and actually heir

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 18 19

Online LibraryAlbert RossA sugar princess → online text (page 16 of 19)