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[Illustration: I consented to deliver a message for him]




THE SLIM PRINCESS

* * * * *

_By_ GEORGE ADE


1907

* * * * *

"The Slim Princess" has been elaborated and rewritten from a story
printed in _The Saturday Evening Post_ of Philadelphia late in 1906 and
copyright, 1906, by the Curtis Publishing Company.

* * * * *


CONTENTS

I WOMAN IN MOROVENIA

II KALORA'S AFFLICTION

III THE CRUELTY OF LAW

IV THE GARDEN PARTY

V HE ARRIVES

VI HE DEPARTS

VII THE ONLY KOLDO

VIII BY MESSENGER

IX AS TO WASHINGTON, D.C.

X ON THE WING

XI AN OUTING - A REUNION

XII THE GOVERNOR CABLES

XIII THE HOME-COMING

XIV HEROISM REWARDED

* * * * *




THE SLIM PRINCESS

* * * * *



I

WOMAN IN MOROVENIA


Morovenia is a state in which both the mosque and the motor-car now
occur in the same landscape. It started out to be Turkish and later
decided to be European.

The Mohammedan sanctuaries with their hideous stencil decorations and
bulbous domes are jostled by many new shops with blinking fronts and
German merchandise. The orthodox turn their faces toward Mecca while the
enlightened dream of a journey to Paris. Men of title lately have made
the pleasing discovery that they may drink champagne and still be good
Mussulmans. The red slipper has been succeeded by the tan gaiter. The
voluminous breeches now acknowledge the superior graces of intimate
English trousers. Frock-coats are more conventional than beaded jackets.
The fez remains as a part of the insignia of the old faith and
hereditary devotion to the Sick Man.

The generation of males which has been extricating itself from the
shackles of Orientalism has not devoted much worry to the Condition of
Woman.

In Morovenia woman is still unliberated. She does not dine at a
palm-garden or hop into a victoria on Thursday afternoon to go to the
meeting of a club organized to propagate cults. If she met a cult face
to face she would not recognize it.

Nor does she suspect, as she sits in her prison apartment, peeping out
through the lattice at the monotonous drift of the street life, that her
sisters in far-away Michigan are organizing and raising missionary funds
in her behalf.

She does not read the dressmaking periodicals. She never heard of the
Wednesday matinée. When she takes the air she rides in a carriage that
has a sheltering hood, and she is veiled up to the eyes, and she must
never lean out to wriggle her little finger-tips at men lolling in front
of the cafés. She must not see the men. She may look at them, but she
must not see them. No wonder the sisters in Michigan are organizing to
batter down the walls of tradition, and bring to her the more recent
privileges of her sex!

Two years ago, when this story had its real beginning, the social status
of woman in Morovenia was not greatly different from what it is to-day,
or what it was two centuries ago.

Woman had two important duties assigned to her. One was to hide herself
from the gaze of the multitude, and the other was to be beautiful - that
is, fat. A woman who was plump, or buxom, or chubby might be classed as
passably attractive, but only the fat women were irresistible. A woman
weighing two hundred pounds was only two-thirds as beautiful as one
weighing three hundred. Those grading below one hundred and fifty were
verging upon the impossible.




II

KALORA'S AFFLICTION


If it had been planned to make this an old-fashioned discursive novel,
say of the Victor Hugo variety, the second chapter would expend itself
upon a philosophical discussion of Fat and a sensational showing of how
and why the presence or absence of adipose tissue, at certain important
crises, had altered the destinies of the whole race.

The subject offers vast possibilities. It involves the physical
attractiveness of every woman in History and permits one to speculate
wildly as to what might have happened if Cleopatra had weighed forty
pounds heavier, if Elizabeth had been a gaunt and wiry creature, or if
Joan of Arc had been so bulky that she could not have fastened on her
armor.

The soft layers which enshroud the hard machinery of the human frame
seem to arrive in a merely incidental or accidental sort of way. Yet
once they have arrived they exert a mysterious influence over careers.
Because of a mere change in contour, many a queen has lost her throne.
It is a terrifying thought when one remembers that fat so often comes
and so seldom goes.

It has been explained that in Morovenia, obesity and feminine beauty
increased in the same ratio. The woman reigning in the hearts of men was
the one who could displace the most atmosphere.

Because of the fashionableness of fat, Count Selim Malagaski,
Governor-General of Morovenia, was very unhappy. He had two daughters.
One was fat; one was thin. To be more explicit, one was gloriously fat
and the other was distressingly thin.

Jeneka was the name of the one who had been blessed abundantly. Several
of the younger men in official circles, who had seen Jeneka at a
distance, when she waddled to her carriage or turned side-wise to enter
a shop-door, had written verses about her in which they compared her to
the blushing pomegranate, the ripe melon, the luscious grape, and other
vegetable luxuries more or less globular in form.

No one had dedicated any verses to Kalora. Kalora was the elder of the
two. She had come to the alarming age of nineteen and no one had started
in bidding for her.

In court circles, where there is much time for idle gossip, the most
intimate secrets of an important household are often bandied about when
the black coffee is being served. The marriageable young men of
Morovenia had learned of the calamity in Count Malagaski's family. They
knew that Kalora weighed less than one hundred and twenty pounds. She
was tall, lithe, slender, sinuous, willowy, hideous. The fact that poor
old Count Malagaski had made many unsuccessful attempts to fatten her
was a stock subject for jokes of an unrefined and Turkish character.

Whereas Jeneka would recline for hours at a time on a shaded veranda,
munching sugary confections that were loaded with nutritious nuts,
Kalora showed a far-western preference for pickles and olives, and had
been detected several times in the act of bribing servants to bring
this contraband food into the harem.

Worse still, she insisted upon taking exercise. She loved to play
romping games within the high walls of the inclosure where she and the
other female attaches of the royal household were kept penned up. Her
father coaxed, pleaded and even threatened, but she refused to lead the
indolent life prescribed by custom; she scorned the sweet and heavy
foods which would enable her to expand into loveliness; she persistently
declined to be fat.

Kalora's education was being directed by a superannuated professor named
Popova. He was so antique and book-wormy that none of the usual
objections urged against the male sex seemed to hold good in his case,
and he had the free run of the palace. Count Selim Malagaski trusted
him implicitly. Popova fawned upon the Governor-General, and seemed
slavish in his devotion. Secretly and stealthily he was working out a
frightful vengeance upon his patron. Twenty years before, Count Selim,
in a moment of anger, had called Popova a "Christian dog."

In Morovenia it is flattery to call a man a "liar." It is just the same
as saying to him, "You belong in the diplomatic corps." It is no
disgrace to be branded as a thief, because all business transactions are
saturated with treachery. But to call another a "Christian dog" is the
thirty-third degree of insult.

Popova writhed in spirit when he was called "Christian," but he covered
his wrath and remained in the nobleman's service and waited for his
revenge. And now he was sacrificing the innocent Kalora in order to
punish the father. He said to himself: "If she does not fatten, then her
father's heart will be broken, and he will suffer even as I have
suffered from being called Christian."

It was Popova who, by guarded methods, encouraged her to violent
exercise, whereby she became as hard and trim as an antelope. He
continued to supply her with all kinds of sour and biting foods and
sharp mineral waters, which are the sworn enemies of any sebaceous
condition. And now that she was nineteen, almost at the further boundary
of the marrying age, and slimmer than ever before, he rejoiced greatly,
for he had accomplished his deep and malign purpose, and laid a heavy
burden of sorrow upon Count Selim Malagaski.




III

THE CRUELTY OF LAW


If the father was worried by the prolonged crisis, the younger sister,
Jeneka, was well-nigh distracted, for she could not hope to marry until
Kalora had been properly mated and sent away.

In Morovenia there is a very strict law intended to eliminate the
spinster from the social horizon. It is a law born of craft and inspired
by foresight. The daughters of a household must be married off in the
order of their nativity. The younger sister dare not contemplate
matrimony until the elder sister has been led to the altar. It is
impossible for a young and attractive girl to make a desirable match
leaving a maiden sister marooned on the market. She must cooperate with
her parents and with the elder sister to clear the way.

As a rule this law encourages earnest getting-together in every
household and results in a clearing up of the entire stock of eligible
daughters. But think of the unhappy lot of an adorable and much-coveted
maiden who finds herself wedged in behind something unattractive and
shelf-worn! Jeneka was thus pocketed. She could do nothing except fold
her hands and patiently wait for some miraculous intervention.

In Morovenia the discreet marrying age is about sixteen. Jeneka was
eighteen - still young enough and of a most ravishing weight, but the
slim princess stood as a slight, yet seemingly insurmountable barrier
between her and all hopes of conventional happiness.

Count Malagaski did not know that the shameful fact of Kalora's
thinness was being whispered among the young men of Morovenia. When the
daughters were out for their daily carriage-ride both wore flowing
robes. In the case of Kalora, this augmented costume was intended to
conceal the absence of noble dimensions.

It is not good form in Morovenia for a husband or father to discuss his
home life, or to show enthusiasm on the subject of mere woman; but the
Count, prompted by a fretful desire to dispose of his rapidly maturing
offspring, often remarked to the high-born young gentlemen of his
acquaintance that Kalora was a most remarkable girl and one possessed of
many charms, leaving them to infer, if they cared to do so, that
possibly she weighed at least one hundred and eighty pounds.

[Illustration: Papova rejoiced greatly]

[Blank Page]

These casual comments did not seem to arouse any burning curiosity
among the young men, and up to the day of Kalora's nineteenth
anniversary they had not had the effect of bringing to the father any of
those guarded inquiries which, under the oriental custom, are always
preliminary to an actual proposal of marriage.

Count Selim Malagaski had a double reason for wishing to see Kalora
married. While she remained at home he knew that he would be second in
authority. There is an occidental misapprehension to the effect that
every woman beyond the borders of the Levant is a languorous and waxen
lily, floating in a milk-warm pool of idleness. It is true that the
women of a household live in certain apartments set aside as a "harem."
But "harem" literally means "forbidden" - that is, forbidden to the
public, nothing more. Every villa at Newport has a "harem."

The women of Morovenia do not pour tea for men every afternoon, and they
are kept well under cover, but they are not slaves. They do not inherit
a nominal authority, but very often they assume a real authority. In the
United States, women can not sail a boat, and yet they direct the cruise
of the yacht. Railway presidents can not vote in the Senate, and yet
they always know how the votes are going to be cast. And in Morovenia,
many a clever woman, deprived of specified and legal rights, has learned
to rule man by those tactful methods which are in such general use that
they need not be specified in this connection.

Kalora had a way of getting around her father. After she had defied him
and put him into a stewing rage, she would smooth him the right way
and, with teasing little cajoleries, nurse him back to a pleasant humor.
He would find himself once more at the starting-place of the
controversy, his stern commands unheeded, and the disobedient daughter
laughing in his very face.

Thus, while he was ashamed of her physical imperfections, he admired her
cleverness. Often he said to Popova: "I tell you, she might make some
man a sprightly and entertaining companion, even if she _is_ slender."

Whereupon the crafty Popova would reply: "Be patient, your Excellency.
We shall yet have her as round as a dumpling."

And all the time he was keeping her trained as fine as the proverbial
fiddle.




IV

THE GARDEN PARTY


Said the Governor-General to himself in that prime hour for wide-awake
meditation - the one just before arising for breakfast: "She is not all
that she should be, and yet, millions of women have been less than
perfect and most of them have married."

He looked hard at the ceiling for a full minute and then murmured, "Even
men have their shortcomings."

This declaration struck him as being sinful and almost infidel in its
radicalism, and yet it seemed to open the way to a logical reason why
some titled bachelor of damaged reputation and tottering finances might
balance his poor assets against a dowry and a social position, even
though he would be compelled to figure Kalora into the bargain.

It must be known that the Governor-General was now simply looking for a
husband for Kalora. He did not hope to top the market or bring down any
notable catch. He favored any alliance that would result in no discredit
to his noble lineage.

"At present they do not even nibble," he soliloquized, still looking at
the ceiling. "They have taken fright for some reason. They may have an
inkling of the awful truth. She is nineteen. Next year she will be
twenty - the year after that twenty-one. Then it would be too late. A
desperate experiment is better than inaction. I have much to gain and
nothing to lose. I must exhibit Kalora. I shall bring the young men to
her. Some of them may take a fancy to her. I have seen people eat sugar
on tomatoes and pepper on ice-cream. There may be in Morovenia one - one
would be sufficient - one bachelor who is no stickler for full-blown
loveliness. I may find a man who has become inoculated with western
heresies and believes that a woman with intellect is desirable, even
though under weight. I may find a fool, or an aristocrat who has
gambled. I may stumble upon good fortune if I put her out among the
young men. Yes, I must exhibit her, but how - how?"

He began reaching into thin air for a pretext and found one. The
inspiration was simple and satisfying.

He would give a garden-party in honor of Mr. Rawley Plumston, the
British Consul. Of course he would have to invite Mrs. Plumston and
then, out of deference to European custom, he would have his two
daughters present. It was only by the use of imported etiquette that he
could open the way to direct courtship.

Possibly some of the cautious young noblemen would talk with Kalora,
and, finding her bright-eyed, witty, ready in conversation and with
enthusiasm for big and masculine undertakings, be attracted to her. At
the same time her father decided that there was no reason why her
pitiful shortage of avoirdupois should be candidly advertised. Even at a
garden-party, where the guests of honor are two English subjects, the
young women would be required to veil themselves up to the nose-tips and
hide themselves within a veritable cocoon of soft garments.

The invitations went out and the acceptances came in. The English were
flattered. Count Malagaski was buoyed by new hopes and the daughters
were in a day-and-night flutter, for neither of them had ever come
within speaking distance of the real young man of their dreams.

On the morning of the day set apart for the début of Kalora, Count Selim
went to her apartments, and, with a rather shamefaced reluctance, gave
his directions.

"Kalora, I have done all for you that any father could do for a beloved
child and you are still thin," he began.

"Slender," she corrected.

"Thin," he repeated. "Thin as a crane - a mere shadow of a girl - and,
what is more deplorable, apparently indifferent to the sorrow that you
are causing those most interested in your welfare."

"I am not indifferent, father. If, merely by wishing, I could be fat, I
would make myself the shape of the French balloon that floated over
Morovenia last week. I would be so roly-poly that, when it came time for
me to go and meet our guests this afternoon, I would roll into their
presence as if I were a tennis-ball."

"Why should you know anything about tennis-balls? You, of all the young
women in Morovenia, seem to be the only one with a fondness for
athletics. I have heard that in Great Britain, where the women ride and
play rude, manly games, there has been developed a breed as hard as
flint - Allah preserve me from such women!"

"Father, you are leading up to something. What is it you wish to say?"

"This. You have persistently disobeyed me and made me very unhappy, but
to-day I must ask you to respect my wishes. Do not proclaim to our
guests the sad truth regarding your deficiency."

"Good!" she exclaimed gaily. "I shall wear a robe the size of an Arabian
tent, and I shall surround myself with soft pillows, and I shall wheeze
when I breathe and - who knows? - perhaps some dark-eyed young man worth a
million piasters will be deceived, and will come to you to-morrow, and
buy me - buy me at so much a pound." And she shrieked with laughter.

"Stop!" commanded her father. "You refuse to take me seriously, but I am
in earnest. Do not humiliate me in the presence of my friends this
afternoon."

Then he hurried away before she had time to make further sport of him.

To Count Selim Malagaski this garden-party was the frantic effort of a
sinking man. To Kalora it was a lark. From the pure fun of the thing,
she obeyed her father. She wore four heavily quilted and padded gowns,
one over another, and when she and Jeneka were summoned from their
apartments and went out to meet the company under the trees, they were
almost like twins and both duck-like in general outlines.

First they met Mrs. Rawley Plumston, a very tall, bony and dignified
woman in gray, wearing a most flowery hat. To every man of Morovenia
Mrs. Plumston was the apotheosis of all that was undesirable in her sex,
but they were exceedingly polite to her, for the reason that Morovenia
owed a great deal of money in London and it was a set policy to
cultivate the friendship of the British.

While Jeneka and Kalora were being presented to the consul's wife,
these same young men, the very flower of bachelorhood, stood back at a
respectful distance and regarded the young women with half-concealed
curiosity. To be permitted to inspect young women of the upper classes
was a most unusual privilege, and they knew why the privilege had been
extended to them. It was all very amusing, but they were too well bred
to betray their real emotions. When they moved up to be presented to the
sisters they seemed grave in their salutations and restrained
themselves, even though one pair of eyes, peering out above a very gauzy
veil, seemed to twinkle with mischief and to corroborate their most
pronounced suspicions.

Out of courtesy to his guests, Count Malagaski had made his garden-party
as deadly dull as possible. Little groups of bored people drifted about
under the trees and exchanged the usual commonplace observations. Tea
and cakes were served under a canopy tent and the local orchestra
struggled with pagan music.

Kalora found herself in a wide and easy kind of a basket-chair sitting
under a tree and chatting with Mrs. Plumston. She was trying to be at
her ease, and all the time she knew that every young man present was
staring at her out of the corner of his eye.

Mrs. Plumston, although very tall and evidently of brawny strength, had
a twittering little voice and a most confiding manner. She was immensely
interested in the daughter of the Governor-General. To meet a young girl
who had spent her life within the mysterious shadows of an oriental
household gave her a tingling interest, the same as reading a forbidden
book. She readily won the confidence of Kalora, and Kalora, being most
ingenuous and not educated to the wiles of the drawing-room, spoke her
thoughts with the utmost candor.

"I like you," she said to Mrs. Plumston, "and, oh, how I envy you! You
go to balls and dinners and the theater, don't you?"

"Alas, yes, and you escape them! How I envy _you_!"

"Your husband is a very handsome man. Do you love him?"

"I tolerate him."

"Does he ever scold you for being thin?"

"Does he _what_?"

"Is he ever angry with you because you are not big and plump
and - and - pulpy?"

"Heavens, no! If my husband has any private convictions regarding my
personal appearance, he is discreet enough to keep them to himself. If
he isn't satisfied with me, he should be. I have been working for years
to save myself from becoming fat and plump and - pulpy."

"Then you don't think fat women are beautiful?"

"My child, in all enlightened countries adipose is woman's worst enemy.
If I were a fat woman, and a man said that he loved me, I should know
that he was after my bank-account. Take my advice, my dear young lady,
and bant."

"Bant?"

"Reduce. Make yourself slender. You have beautiful eyes, beautiful hair,
a perfect complexion, and with a trim figure you would be simply
incomparable."

Kalora listened, trembling with surprise and pleasure. Then she leaned
over and took the hand of the gracious Englishwoman.

"I have a confession to make," she said in a whisper. "I am not fat - I
am slim - quite slim."

And then, at that moment, something happened to make this whole story
worth telling. It was a little something, but it was the beginning of
many strange experiences, for it broke up the wonderful garden-party in
the grounds of the Governor-General, and it gave Morovenia something to
talk about for many weeks to come. It all came about as follows:

At the military club, the night before the party, a full score of young
men, representing the quality, sat at an oblong table and partook of
refreshments not sanctioned by the Prophet. They were young men of
registered birth and supposititious breeding, even though most of them
had very little head back of the ears and wore the hair clipped short
and were big of bone, like work-horses, and had the gusty manners of the
camp.

They were foolishly gloating over the prospect of meeting the two
daughters of the Governor-General, and were telling what they knew about
them with much freedom, for, even in a monarchy, the chief executive and
his family are public property and subject to the censorship of any one
who has a voice for talking.

Of these male gossips there were a few who said, with gleeful certainty,
that the elder daughter was a mere twig who could hide within the shadow
of her bounteous and incomparable sister.

"Wait until to-morrow and you shall see," they said, wagging their heads
very wisely.

To-morrow had come and with it the party and here was Kalora - a pretty
face peering out from a great pod of clothes.

They stood back and whispered and guessed, until one, more enterprising
than the others, suggested a bold experiment to set all doubts at rest.

Count Malagaski had provided a diversion for his guests. A company of
Arabian acrobats, on their way from Constantinople to Paris, had been
intercepted, and were to give an exhibition of leaping and
pyramid-building at one end of the garden. While Kalora was chatting
with Mrs. Plumston, the acrobats had entered and, throwing off their
yellow-and-black striped gowns, were preparing for the feats. They were


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