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murmured at the tariff! The lift groaned and creaked under the
unaccustomed weights put upon it and moved more slowly than ever.
Pelletan, as he hurried past, mopping his perspiring brow, had time only
for a single glance at his good angel - but what a glance! Such a glance,
no doubt, Columbus caught from his lieutenants at the cry of "Land Ho!"

Rushford, leaning over the desk, watching the confusion with an
amusement which had banished every trace of ennui, felt his arm touched.
He turned and recognised the be-gilt messenger of the day before.

"A second telegram for monsieur," said that functionary, with an amiable
grin, and produced the message.

There was no time for hesitation. Rushford took it, signed the blank,
and fished up the expected tip.

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave!" he murmured, and looked at the
address on the little white envelope. It read:

_M. le Propriétaire,

Grand Hôtel Royal,

Weet-sur-Mer._

"The plot thickens!" he murmured. "Well, it's really for me. Let's see,"
and he tore it open. He whistled again as he read the message; then he
called the nearest boy. "Tell Monsieur Pelletan to come here at once,"
he said. "Tell him I must speak to him on a matter of importance."

At the end of a moment, the little man puffed down the stair, exhausted,
radiant!

"Iss eet not grand!" he cried. "What a change from yesterday! T'ough how
you haf accomplishe' eet, monsieur - "

"No matter," interrupted Rushford. "Which is the next best of your
apartments, Pelletan?"

"T'e nex' best? Why, apartment B, monsieur. Eet iss t'e counterpart of
apartment A, only on t'e nort' side of t'e house instead of t'e sout'."

"And it is still empty?"

"At two hundret francs t'e tay? Oh, yess, monsieur; only a Prince can
afford eet now."

"Well, you will prepare it at once - "

"Ah, monsieur himself will take eet! T'at iss just! I shall pe too
happy - "

"No, no; you've just said that only a Prince can afford it and it's my
business to produce him! Let's see - it's nearly nine - well, at ten
o'clock, there will arrive in a special train - "

Monsieur Pelletan had turned pale.

"Een a special train?" he faltered. "What! Some one else?"

"Yes - at ten o'clock - "

"Who iss eet will arrive, monsieur?" questioned Pelletan faintly.

"His Highness, Prince Frederick of Markeld, ambassador from the court of
Schloshold-Markheim," answered Rushford, dwelling upon every word. "We
will give him apartment B."


CHAPTER IV


An Adventure and a Rescue

It was not until Rushford opened his paper an hour later that he fully
understood the remarkable situation of which the Grand Hôtel Royal had,
by the merest chance, become the centre.

"It is extremely unfortunate [said
the _Times_] that Lord Vernon should
have been taken ill at just this time,
when the question of the succession of
Schloshold-Markheim is hanging in the
balance. Lord Vernon is the only man
in the cabinet capable of dealing with
the situation, which is as delicate as can
be imagined. On the one side are arrayed
the sympathies of our reigning
house and perhaps even our own
honour; on the other, the plainly expressed
desires of the German Emperor.

"The late Prince Christian left no direct
heirs, so that, in any event, the succession
must be through a collateral
branch. The claims of the rivals, Prince
George, of Schloshold, and Prince
Ferdinand, of Markheim, are therefore
evenly balanced. On one side of the
scale, however, the German Emperor
has thrown the weight of his influence.
On the other side is the moral influence
of practically all the rest of Europe, but
this will scarcely be of any value to
Prince Ferdinand unless he can enlist
the active support of Great Britain,
which, it may be, Lord Vernon, though
reluctant to withhold, will find impossible
to give. It is not to be denied that,
from a disinterested view-point, Prince
Ferdinand seems by far the more worthy
of the two claimants.

"Lord Vernon is suffering with a
very severe attack of influenza, which
has been developing for some days, and
which has, at last, become so serious that
his physicians have commanded a complete
rest for a week or ten days. One
may well conceive Lord Vernon's reluctance
to heed this advice, but he has
very wisely decided to do so. The little
seaside resort of Weet-sur-Mer, on the
Dutch coast, has been selected as the
place for his sojourn, and he will be
taken there to-morrow on H. M. S.
_Dauntless_. Sir John Scaddam, his
physician, and two of his secretaries,
Mr. Arthur Collins and Mr. George
Blake, will accompany him, although
work of any kind has been absolutely
forbidden him for at least a week. It is
believed that the bracing atmosphere of
Weet-sur-Mer will effect a cure in that
time.

"Weet-sur-Mer is comparatively little
known, at least in England. It is really
the old Dutch fishing-village of Weet-zurlindenhofen;
but a number of years
ago it was exploited as a watering-place
and re-christened Weet-sur-Mer by
some enthusiast more anxious to advertise
the fact that one may bathe there
than to observe the rules of etymology.
It is rather out of the way, and the route
by rail is so circuitous and uncertain
that it was judged best to spare Lord
Vernon the fatigue of such a journey by
conveying him directly thither upon the
_Dauntless_. He hopes to find there a
quiet and seclusion which would be impossible
at any of the larger resorts.

"We understand that Prince George
is with the German Emperor at Berlin,
and that Prince Ferdinand, who is at
Markheim, has commissioned his
cousin, Prince Frederick, of Markeld, to
place his claims before our foreign office.
His reception at this time can
hardly fail to cause acute embarrassment."

There was a half-column more of comment and veiled suggestion that
perhaps the wisest course for the foreign office to pursue, now that
Lord Vernon's guiding hand was for the moment withdrawn, would be to let
affairs take their course; though it was difficult to see how this could
consistently be done if Prince Frederick succeeded in gaining a formal
audience and placing his case before the government. Already, it seemed,
the jingo papers were taunting the administration with undue truckling
to the wishes of Germany, with a lack of stamina and backbone in
short - with something like treachery toward Prince Ferdinand and treason
toward the royal family, with which the Prince was distantly allied.

Rushford gave a long whistle of astonishment; then he laid the paper on
his knees and stared thoughtfully out across the sands for some minutes.

"Of course, Markeld has followed Vernon here," he said, at last. "I
rather admire his pluck. And I'd like to be present at the
interview - it'll be interesting. Why, hello, Pelletan," he added, as the
latter approached him humbly, as a slave approaches the Sultan. "Want to
speak to me?" "Eef monsieur please," answered the little Frenchman,
who was plainly labouring under deep excitement.

"All right; what is it?"

"Wass monsieur serious in hees command t'at I exclude t'e Prince of
Zeit-Zeit?"

"Never more serious in my life. He's barred! We take only human
beings - not monstrosities. Has he applied?"

"Yess, monsieur; he tesires hees old apartment."

"Which was that?"

"Apartment A, monsieur; he hass always had t'e pest in t'e house when he
come here mit' hees fat'er."

"Well, apartment A's already taken; even if it were empty, he shouldn't
have it. Where's your nerve, Pelletan - here's your chance for revenge!"

"But to refuse a Prince!" murmured Pelletan. "Eet iss somet'ing unheard
of!"

"It will make you famous! It's a big ad for the house! 'The Grand Hôtel
Royal refuses to receive the Prince of Zeit-Zeit.' Think what a stir
that will make! Besides, you have no choice - I require it!"

"Fery well, monsieur," agreed Pelletan, with a gesture of despairing
obedience. "T'ere iss one t'ing more - I haf an idea."

"That's good; let's have it," said Rushford, encouragingly. "There's
nothing like ideas."

"Monsieur will remember," began Pelletan, in a voice carefully lowered,
"t'at we agreed to touble t'e price of entertainment."

"Yes - what of it? Anybody been kicking?"

"No - au contraire, monsieur - t'e house iss full - efery leetle room."

"You see you don't need Zeit-Zeit; it's quite like the old times, isn't
it?"

"Yess - only petter, monsieur; far petter. Oh, eet iss wunderschön!"

"Well, go ahead; what's the idea?"

"Since t'e house iss full," said Pelletan, impressively, "and t'ere are
many more asking for rooms - oh, temanding t'em - t'e Prince among t'e
number! - why may not we again touble t'e price?" and he leaned back in
his chair, looking triumphantly at his partner. But his face fell as the
latter shook his head. "No?" he asked. "Eet will not do?"

"No," said Rushford, slowly; "I'm afraid it won't do. You see it would
be a kind of ex post facto proceeding - "

"A - I ton't quite comprehen', monsieur."

"No matter - trust me - see what's happened since yesterday," and he
waved his hand at the busy corridor.

"Oh, eet iss kolossal!" cried Pelletan. "I shall nefer cease to atmire
monsieur. Perhaps," he suggested timidly, "since he hass peen so
successful, monsieur may pe tempted to remain permanently. Surely he
would pe one great success! In a year - two year - we would eclipse
Ostend - monsieur himself hass said eet!"

"No," laughed the other, "I don't think I'd care to remain. Though, of
course," he added, "the possibility of great success is always
fascinating."

"Oh, eet iss more t'an a possibility," cried Pelletan. "Eet is a
certainty."

"A certainty is not so fascinating as a possibility," the American
pointed out, his eyes twinkling.

"Unt t'en," continued Pelletan, persuasively, fancying, no doubt, that
he saw some signs of yielding in his partner's face, "eef monsieur
remains, he can haf t'e house done ofer to suit heem; he can t'row away
t'e furniture he does not like; he can paint out t'e marble columns; he
can cause all t'e servants to pe tressed to hees taste. He would make
one grand sensation! T'e house would pe t'e talk of Europe, tint we
would soon pe reech - oh, reech!" and the little Frenchman stretched his
arms wide to indicate the vast extent of the wealth that was awaiting
them.

But Rushford shook his head.

"No, Pelletan," he said; "no, I really can't do it. It's utterly
impossible, or your impassioned eloquence would certainly prevail.
There's nothing I'd like better than to show the hotel-keepers of Europe
a thing or two - they are more conceited with less reason for being so
than any other class of men I know. But I've got to go back to America
before long to look after my business there. Besides, I don't really
feel that hotel-keeping is my lifework. I'm afraid it would pall upon me
after a time. But I tell you what I'll do, if you wish, Pelletan. I'll
tear up the agreement and say no more about it. You may have all the
profits."

"Oh!" cried the Frenchman, dazzled by this munificence, by the golden
vision which danced before his eyes. Then he hesitated. With his
partner's marvellous influence withdrawn, might not the whole wonderful
structure come tumbling about his ears? It would be like pulling out the
foundation! What would prevent his guests from packing up and leaving
to-morrow? "No, monsieur," he said, slowly, at last, "I prefer eet as
eet iss."

"Very well," and Rushford laughed again; it was not the first time his
partners in business had been afraid to do without him! "Let it be that
way, then. Have you got that agreement with you?"

"Yess, monsieur; eet iss here," and he produced it from an inner
pocket.

"Let me have it a minute."

Pelletan gave it to him with trembling hand. His partner opened it, got
out his fountain-pen, and changed a word in the contract.

"There," he said, "that's more fair, Pelletan."

Pelletan paled as he looked at the paper and his eyes grew misty.
Instead of one hundred francs daily, he would receive two hundred. Ah,
these magnificent Americans!

The interview to which the _Times_ looked forward with so much
apprehension was, it seemed, indefinitely postponed. The Prince of
Markeld had, indeed, immediately upon his arrival, caused his presence
to be formally announced to Lord Vernon, but the latter had responded
that he was, for the present, under the orders of his physician, who
forbade him to see any one or to transact business of any kind. Whereat
the Prince had twisted his mustachios fiercely (with an accompaniment,
no doubt, of sub voce profanity) and had proceeded to amuse himself
until luncheon with an exceedingly ugly bulldog he had brought with him.

He had luncheon in his apartment, smoked a cigarette or two, despatched
a telegram describing the state of affairs to Prince Ferdinand, and
then, looking from his window and perceiving that all the world was
abroad, prepared for a walk along the beach. At the door, he happened to
look back and caught his dog's eyes fixed wistfully upon him.

"Ah, Jax, old boy," he said, "it is unfair to leave you shut up here
with only Glück for company. Like to come along?"

Jax wriggled his delight.

"And you'll behave yourself?"

Jax promised as clearly as a dog could.

"Very well, then," and the Prince went down the stair, with Jax,
half-delirious with joy, behind him.

Now the Prince was a very good-looking fellow, erect and clean, as
German noblemen have a way of being - besides, he was a Prince, a
commander of favours from the world and women, not a mere suitor for
them as most poor mortals are - and more than one pair of eyes gazed at
him languishingly from under pencilled brows as he strolled moodily
along the beach, golden yellow in the sunlight; more than one crimson
mouth shaped itself to an entrancing smile; more than one sullied heart
beat high at thought of a brilliant future.

But on this occasion, none of the sirens won an answering glance, for
the Prince was in no mood for flirtation - and, besides, he was used to
sirens. So he strolled on, deep in thought. This affair of state, which
rested upon his shoulders, promised to go badly; if Lord Vernon
persisted in his refusal to see him, he was checkmated at the start,
before he had opportunity to make a move. Delay meant ruin, and his
cousin had trusted everything to him. He knew very well that the Emperor
would not delay; that he would use every minute to strengthen his
position; that he would compel events, not dance attendance on them. He,
the Prince, must see Lord Vernon at any cost; he must demand an
audience; he must appeal to his patriotism, his sense of honour, the
love of fair play which every Englishman possesses; he must make refusal
impossible -

He paused and looked up, conscious of a sudden commotion on the beach
just ahead of him. Then he saw his dog dancing frantically about a young
lady who held in her arms a little white spaniel, which she had
evidently just snatched up from annihilation.

Markeld started forward with a leap, but at that instant a tall figure
emerged from a hooded chair nearby, and with a quick and well-directed
kick, sent the dog spinning.

"Oh, thank you!" cried Susie Rushford, looking up into a very handsome
face.

"It was my great good fortune," said the stranger, bowing, "to be of
service to a compatriot."

"Oh, you are an American?"

"No; an Englishman; but at least we speak the same language! I don't
know the word for it"

"Neither do I - compatriot will do. You were just in time!"

"And you did it very neatly," added Nell, admiringly, glancing at the
discomfited Jax, who was looking about him dazedly.

"Thank you," and the stranger, checking the words which were evidently
upon his lips, bowed again, turned quickly back to his chair, buried
himself in its recesses, and retired behind a newspaper.

"Well!" gasped Sue, meeting her sister's astonished eyes, "I must
say - "

But what she must have said will remain forever a mystery, for just then
the Prince of Markeld came hurrying up.

"I hope there is no damage," he said, speaking with just the slightest
accent. "He is my dog," he added, seeing their questioning glance. "I am
very sorry. I was a little preoccupied and was not noticing him. He is
usually a very good dog. I cannot understand why he should have attacked
yours."

"He isn't mine," laughed Susie, patting the spaniel upon his silky head;
"he just ran to me for refuge."

"Evidently a most intelligent dog," observed the Prince, gravely.

"You think so?" asked Susie, her colour deepening just the faintest bit.
"Ah, here is the owner, now," she added, as a little faded old woman
came panting up.

"Oh, thank you, mademoiselle!" cried the newcomer, snatching the dog
from Susie's arms. "Thank you! He was a bad boy - he run away!" and she
held him close against her heart.

"It was nothing," protested Susie. "I am very glad I happened to be just
here. Though I don't suppose that either I or the dog was in danger of
being eaten," she added to Markeld, as the little old woman trotted
tremulously away. "Your dog doesn't look especially ferocious."

"Still, I beg a thousand pardons," repeated the Prince. "I should have
kept my eye on him. Come here, Jax," he called, "and make your apologies
to the ladies."

Jax crawled up very humbly and Susie stooped and patted his head.

"Poor Jax," she said. "It wasn't your fault, I know. I'm sure that
little spaniel insulted you!"

Jax licked her hand gratefully, and the Prince looked on with an
admiration he did not attempt to conceal.

"Would you like him?" he asked, eagerly.

Susie started up with crimsoning cheeks.

"No, thank you," she said, and taking her sister's arm, she walked on,
chin in air.

The Prince gazed after her, wide-eyed, for a moment, then turned
resolutely and continued on his way.

"Well," began Nell, at the end of a minute, "he quite took my breath
away!"

"Which he?" queried Sue.

"Both of them; but the first especially. That kick bespoke football
training."

"And he has evidently kept in condition," added Sue. "The owner of the
dog wasn't a bad-looking fellow, either - interesting, too, I haven't a
doubt, and I do like interesting people! But the nerve of him - offering
me his dog! I'm afraid we need a chaperon, after all, my dear."

"Yes," agreed Nell, "perhaps we do. But it would be an awful bother."

They walked on to the end of the beach, then mounted to the Digue and
strolled slowly back toward the hotel, enjoying the breeze, the colour,
the sunshine, the strange and varied life of the place.

Stretching along the landward side of the dyke stood a row of little
houses, green and pink and white, with tile roofs mounting steeply
upward, their red surfaces broken by innumerable dormers. These had once
been the homes of honest and industrious fishermen, but time had changed
all that. They had been remodelled to suit the demands of business, and
every house had now on the lower floor an expensive little shop with
monsieur sitting complacently at the door and madame, fat and voluble,
at the money-drawer, and on the floor above, a still more expensive
suite of rooms to let - rooms panelled in white and gold, resplendent
with rococo mouldings, and crowded with abominable furniture, intended
to be coquettish - gilt chairs, scalloped tables, embroidered
lambrequins, ottomans smothered in plush and fringe, beds draped with
curtains until they were all but air-tight - in effect more French than
France.

Here and there between the houses, a glimpse might be had of the low
country beyond, with its sluggish canal choked with rushes, a dingy
windmill here and there, and stretching away on either side the flat
meadows crinkling with yellow grain, and the green pastures dotted with
huge black-and-white cattle. A narrow road, straight as a line in
Euclid, and bordered by a row of trees each the counterpart of all the
others, mounted toward the horizon, leading, principally, to a low,
yellow house about a mile away, displaying above its door the
appropriate motto, "Lust en Rust." There, either in the cool,
vine-shaded garden, in the long, low-ceilinged dining-room, or in some
smaller and more ornate apartment, one might breakfast, dine, what not,
in the fashion of the country - which, for the most part, meant the
drinking of a muddy liquid with an unpronounceable name and the eating
of wafelen and poffertjes, and of little cheeses calculated to appal the
strongest stomach.

The shops and the landscape - the cosmopolitan crowd with its Babel of
many tongues - the great hotels, built of stucco in the nouveau-riche
style so rasping to sensitive nerves - the striped awnings, the low
balconies, the gaudy house-fronts - all these our heroines looked at and
commented on and revelled in with the joy of fresh and unspoiled youth.
It was life they were tasting - strange, interesting, intoxicating
life - and they drank deep of it.

As they neared the hotel entrance, they saw coming from the other
direction, pushed by two men, an invalid chair. They stood aside to let
it pass, and its occupant, carefully wrapped in a great steamer-rug,
glanced up at them with a quizzical light in his eyes.

They shrank back together against the wall with a simultaneous gasp of
dismay, for the invalid was their athletic rescuer of an hour before.

The chair went on to the desk, where it paused, while its occupant wrote
a hasty sentence on a slip of paper, which he tore from his notebook. A
moment later, it was presented to Susie by one of his attendants. She
took it mechanically, and, with a low bow, the messenger hurried back to
the chair.

"What in the world," she began dazedly; then she unfolded the paper and
read:

"Lord Vernon will be deeply grateful if he is not mentioned in
connection with today's adventure."


CHAPTER V


Tellier Takes a Hand

The Prince continued his walk to the limits of the beach, with Jax
trotting humbly at his heels; then he returned slowly to the hotel and
mounted to his apartment.

"That will do, Glück," he said, as he gave him his hat and gloves.
"Don't let me be disturbed."

And Glück, with his imperturbable mahogany face, silently withdrew to
mount guard without the door.

The Prince sat down, lighted a cigarette, and stared moodily out of the
window, down upon the shifting crowd which still thronged the beach. His
hand, hanging inert by his side, became suddenly the receptacle for a
moist nose.

"Ah, Jax; and did she pat you on the head, old boy?" he asked. "And are
you properly proud?"

Jax wiggled his remnant of a tail.

"Would you like to belong to her, Jax, and get patted every day? Yet she
wouldn't take you - snapped me off short as that stump of yours when I
offered you to her. Why was that, Jax?"

Jax couldn't say, not being familiar with the ways of fair Americans,
and the Prince patted him softly on his nobbly crown.

"Just the same, she was a beauty, Jax; slim, straight, full of fire - a
thoroughbred; and with a sense of humour, my dear, which you will find
in not many women. Did you notice her cheeks, Jax, and her eyes? But of
course not; you were very properly grovelling before her. And I owe you
eternal gratitude, old boy; but for you, I'd have stalked past without
seeing her. That would have been a pity, wouldn't it?"

There was a knock at the door and Glück's head appeared.

"I thought I told you," began the Prince -

"Your Highness will pardon me," explained Glück, quickly, "but there is
a man here who insists that Your Highness will see him."

"Who is he?"

"This is his card, Your Highness," and Glück entered the room. "I have
sent it back once, saying that Your Highness was not to be disturbed. He
returned it, insisting - "

Markeld took the card, glanced at it, and read:

_"M. André Tellier, Paris. Agent du Service de Sûreté"_

Beneath this was a pencilled line - "Concerning the question of the
succession."

The Prince stared at it a moment in some astonishment, not unmixed with
irritation. What could this fellow know concerning the succession? It
was most probably simply an impertinence. The Paris police were famous
for impertinences.

Glück started for the door; since his master's boyhood, he had watched
over him, attended him - he could read his countenance like an open book.
The Prince glanced up.

"Where are you going?" he demanded.

"I go to tell the imbecile that Your Highness will not see him,"
responded Glück, impassively, his hand on the knob.


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