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taking a nap. More than that, he was pleasantly dreaming when the
pounding fell upon his door. Awakened suddenly from this elysian dream
he leaped from his bed and rushed to the door, his heart in his mouth.
Something sinister was back of this imperative summons! She was in
fresh peril. The gang from Green Fancy had descended upon the Tavern in
force and -

"Sorry to disturb you," said Mr. Bacon, as the door flew open, "but he
says it's important. He says - "

"I wish you would tell him to go to the devil," said Barnes wrathfully.

"Superfluous, I assure you, sir. He says that everything and everybody
is going to the devil, so - "

"If he wants to see me why doesn't he come to my room? Why should I go
to his?"

"Lord bless you, don't you know that it's one of the prerogatives of a
star to insist on people coming to him instead of the other way about?
What's the use of being a star if you can't - "

"Tell him I will come when I get good and ready."

"Quite so," said Mr. Bacon absently. He did not retire, but stood in
the door, evidently weighing something that was on his mind and
considering the best means of relieving himself of the mental burden.
"Ahem!" he coughed. "Miss Thackeray advises me that you have expressed
a generous interest in our personal" - (He stepped inside the room and
closed the door) - "er - in our private future, so to speak, and I take
this opportunity to thank you, Mr. Barnes. If it isn't asking too much
of you, I'd like you to say a word or two in my behalf to the old man.
You might tell him that you believe I have a splendid future before
me, - and you wouldn't be lying, let me assure you, - and that there is
no doubt in your mind that a Broadway engagement is quite imminent. A
word from you to one of the Broadway managers, by the way, would - "

"You want me to intercede for you in the matter of two engagements
instead of one, is that it?"

"I am already engaged to Miss Thackeray, - in a way. The better way to
put it would be for you to intercede in the matter of one marriage and
one engagement. I think he would understand the situation much better
if you put it in that way."

"Have you spoken to Mr. Rushcroft about it?"

"Only in a roundabout way. I told him I'd beat his head off if he ever
spoke to Miss Thackeray again as he did last night."

"Well, that's a fair sort of start," said Barnes, who was brushing his
hair. "What did he say to that?"

"I don't know. I had to close the door rather hastily. If he said
anything at all it was after the chair hit the door. Ahem! That was
last night. He is as nice as pie this afternoon, so I have an idea that
he busted the chair and doesn't want old Jones to find out about it."

"I will say a good word for you," said Barnes, grinning.

He found Mr. Rushcroft in a greatly perturbed state of mind.

"I've had telegrams from the three people I mentioned to you, Barnes,
and the damned ingrates refuse to join us unless they get their
railroad fares to Crowndale. Moreover, they had the insolence to send
the telegrams collect. The more you do for the confounded bums, the
more they ask. I once had a leading woman who - "

Barnes was in no humour to listen to the long-winded reminiscences of
the "star," so he cut him short at once. He ascertained that the
"ingrates" were in New York, on their "uppers," and that they could not
accomplish the trip to Crowndale unless railroad tickets were provided.
The difficulty was bridged in short order by telegrams requesting the
distant players to apply the next day at his office in New York where
tickets to Crowndale would be given them. He telegraphed his office to
buy the tickets and hold them for Miss Milkens, Mr. Hatcher and Mr.
Fling.

"That completes one of the finest companies, Mr. Barnes, that ever took
the road," said Mr. Rushcroft warmly, forgetting his animosity. "You
will never be associated with a more evenly balanced company of
players, sir. I congratulate you upon your wonderful good fortune in
having such a cast for 'The Duke's Revenge.' If you can maintain a
similar standard of excellence in all of your future productions, you
will go down in history as the most astute theatrical manager of the
day."

Barnes winced, but was game. "When do you start rehearsals, Rushcroft?"

"It is my plan to go to Crowndale to-morrow or the next day, where I
shall meet my company. Rehearsals will undoubtedly start at once. That
would give us - let me see - Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday - four days.
We open on Tuesday night. Oh, by the way, I have engaged a young woman
of most unusual talent to take the minor part of Hortense. You may have
noticed her in the dining-room. Miss Rosamond - er - where did I put that
card? - ah, yes, Miss Floribel Blivens. The poor idiot insists on
Blivens, desiring to perpetuate the family monicker. I have gotten rid
of her spectacles, however, and the name that the prehistoric Blivenses
gave her at the christening."

"You - you don't mean Miss Tilly?"

"I do. She is to give notice to Jones to-day. There are more ways than
one of getting even with a scurvy caitiff. In this case, I take old
Jones's best waitress away from him, and, praise God, he'll never find
another that will stick to him for eighteen years as she has done."

O'Dowd returned late in the afternoon. He was in a hurry to get back to
Green Fancy; there was no mistaking his uneasiness. He drew Barnes
aside.

"For the love of Heaven, Barnes, get her away from here as soon as
possible, and do it as secretly as you can," he said. "I may as well
tell you that she is in more danger from the government secret service
than from any one up yonder. Understand, I'm not pleading guilty to
anything, but I shall be far, far away from here meself before another
sunrise. That ought to mean something to you."

"But she has done no wrong. She has not laid herself liable to - "

"That isn't the point. She has been up there with us, and you don't
want to put her in the position of having to answer a lot of nasty
questions they'll be after asking her if they get their hands on her.
She might be weeks or months clearing herself, innocent though she be.
Mind you, she is as square as anything; she is in no way mixed up with
our affairs up there. But I'm giving you the tip. Sneak her out as soon
as you can, and don't leave any trail."

"She may prefer to face the music, O'Dowd. If I know her at all, she
will refuse to run away."

"Then ye'll have to kidnap her," said the Irishman earnestly. "There
will be men swarming here from both sides of the border by to-morrow
night or next day. I've had direct information. The matter is in the
hands of the people at Washington and they are in communication with
Ottawa this afternoon. Never mind how I found it out. It's the gospel
truth, and - it's going to be bad for all of us if we're here when they
come."

"Who is she, O'Dowd? Man to man, tell me the truth. I want to know just
where I stand."

O'Dowd hesitated, looked around the tap-room, and then leaned across
the table.

"She is the daughter of Andreas Mara-Dafanda, former minister of war in
the cabinet of Prince Bolaroz the Sixth. Her mother was first cousin to
the Prince. Both father and mother are dead. And for that matter, so is
Bolaroz the Sixth. He was killed early in this war. His brother, a
prisoner in Austria, as you may already know, is the next in line for
the throne, - if the poor devil lives to get it back from the Huns. Miss
Cameron is in reality the Countess Therese Mara-Dafanda - familiarly and
lovingly known in her own land as the Countess Ted. She was visiting in
this country when the war broke out. If it is of any use to you, I'll
add that she would be rich if Aladdin could only come to life and
restore the splendours of the demolished castle, refill the chests of
gold that have been emptied by the conquerors, and restock the farms
that have been pillaged and devastated. In the absence of Aladdin,
however, she is almost as poor as the ancient church-mouse. But she has
a fortune of her own. Two of the most glorious rubies in the world
represent her lips; her eyes are sapphires that put to shame the rocks
of all the Sultans; when she smiles, you may look upon pearls that
would make the Queen of Sheba's trinkets look like chinaware; her skin
is of the rarest and richest velvet; her hair is all silk and a yard
wide; and, best of all, she has a heart of pure gold. So there you are,
me man. Half the royal progeny of Europe have been suitors for her
hand, and the other half would be if they didn't happen to be of the
same sex."

"Is she likely to - er - marry any one of them, O'Dowd?"

"Do you mean, is she betrothed to one of the royal nuts? If I were her
worst enemy I couldn't wish her anything as bad as that. The world is
full of regular men, - like meself, for example, - and 'twould be a pity
to see her wasted upon anything so cheap as a king."

"Then, she isn't?"

"Isn't what?"

"Betrothed."

"Oh!" He squinted his eyes drolly. "Bedad, if she is, she's kept it a
secret from me. Have you aspirations, me friend?"

"Certainly not," said Barnes sharply. "By the way, you have mentioned
Prince Bolaroz the Sixth, but you haven't given a name to the country
he ruled."

O'Dowd stared. "The Saints preserve us! Is the man a numbskull? Are you
saying that you don't know who and what - My God, such ignorance
bewilders me!"

"Painful as it may be to you, O'Dowd, I don't seem able to place
Bolaroz in his proper realm."

"Whist, then!" He put his hand to his mouth and whispered a name.

An incredulous expression came into Barnes's eyes. "Are you jesting
with me, O'Dowd?"

"I am not."

"But I thought it was nothing more than a make-believe, imaginary land,
cooked up by some hair-brained novelist for the purpose of - "

"Well, ye know better now," said O'Dowd crisply. "Good-bye. I must be
on my way. Deliver my best wishes to her, Barnes, and say that if she
ever needs a friend Billy O'Dowd is the boy to respond to any call she
sends out. God willing, I may see her again some day, - and I'll say the
same to you, old man." He arose and held out his hand. "I'm trusting to
you to get her away from these parts before the rat-catchers come.
Don't let 'em bother her. Good-bye and good luck forever."

"You are a brick, O'Dowd. I want to see you again. You will always find
me - "

"Thanks. Don't issue any rash invitations. I might take you up." He
strode to the door, followed by Barnes.

"Is there anything to be feared from this Prince Ugo or the crowd up
there?"

"There would be if they knew where they could lay their hands on her
inside of the next ten hours. She could a tale unfold, and they
wouldn't like that. Keep her under cover here till - well, till THAT
danger is past and then keep her out of the danger that is to come."

Barnes started upstairs as soon as O'Dowd was off, urged by an
eagerness that put wings on his feet and a thrill of excitement in his
blood. Half way up he stopped short. A new condition confronted him.
What was the proper way to approach a person of royal blood? Certainly
it wasn't right to go galumping upstairs and bang on her door, and
saunter in as if she were just like any one else. He would have to
think.

When he resumed his upward progress it was with a chastened and
deferential mien. Pausing at her door, he was at once aware of voices
inside the room. He stood there for some time before he realised that
Miss Thackeray was repeating, with theatric fervour, though haltingly,
as much of her "part" as she could remember, evidently to the
satisfaction of the cousin of princes, for there were frequent
interruptions which had all the symptoms of applause.

He rapped on the door, but so timorously that nothing came of it. His
second effort was productive. He heard Miss Thackeray say "good
gracious," and, after a moment, Miss Cameron's subdued: "What is it?"

"May I come in?" he inquired, rather ashamed of his vigour. "It's only
Barnes."

"Come in," was her lively response. "It was awfully good of you, Miss
Thackeray, to let me hear your lines. I think you will be a great
success in the part."

"Thanks," said Miss Thackeray drily. "I'll come in again and let you
hear me in the third act." She went out, mumbling her lines as she
passed Barnes without seeing him.

"Forgive me for not arising, Mr. Barnes," said Royalty, a wry little
smile on her lips. "I fear I twisted it more severely than I thought at
first. It is really quite painful."

"Your ankle?" he cried in surprise. "When and how did it happen? I'm
sorry, awfully sorry."

"It happened last night, just as we were crossing the ditch in front - "

"Last night? Why didn't you tell me? Don't you know that it's wrong to
walk with a sprained ankle? Don't - "

"Don't be angry with me," she pleaded. "You could not have done
anything."

"Couldn't I, though? I certainly could have carried you the rest of the
way, - and upstairs." He was conscious of a strange exasperation. He
felt as though he had been deliberately cheated out of something.

"You poor man! I am quite heavy."

"Pooh! A hundred and twenty-five at the outside. Do you think I'm a
weakling?"

"Please, please!" she cried. "You look so - so furious. I know you are
very, very strong, - but so am I. Why should I expect you to carry me
all that distance when - "

"But, good Lord," he blurted out, "I would have loved to do it. I can't
imagine anything more - I - I - " He broke off in confusion.

She smiled divinely. "Alas, it is too late now. But - " she went on
gaily, "you may yet have the pleasure of carrying me downstairs, Mr.
Barnes. Will that appease your wrath?"

He flushed. "I'm sorry I - "

"See," she said, "it is nicely bandaged, - and if you could see through
the bandages you would find it dreadfully swollen. That nice Miss
Thackeray doctored me. What a quaint person she is."

His brow clouded once more. "I hope you will feel able to leave this
place to-morrow, Countess. We must get away almost immediately."

"Ah, you have been listening to O'Dowd, I see."

"Yes. He tells me it will be dangerous to - "

"I was thinking of something else that he must have told you. You
forgot to address me as Miss Cameron."

"I might have gone even farther and called you the Countess Ted," he
said.

She sighed. "It was rather nice being Miss Cameron to you, Mr. Barnes.
You will not let it make any difference, will you? I mean to say, you
will be just the same as if I were still Miss Cameron and not - some one
else?"

"I will be just the same," he said, leaning a little closer. "I am not
so easily frightened as all that, you know."

She looked into his eyes for a moment, and then turned her own swiftly
away. Entranced, he watched the delicate colour steal into her cheek.

"You are just like other women," he said thickly, "and I am like other
men. We can't help being what we are, Countess. Flesh and blood
mortals, that's all. If a cat may look at a king, why may not I look at
a countess?"

She met his gaze, but not steadily. Her deep blue eyes were filled with
a vague wonder; she seemed to be searching for something in his to
explain the sudden embarrassment that had come over her.

"Ah, I do not understand you American men," she murmured, shaking her
head. "A king would have found as much pleasure in looking at Miss
Cameron as at a countess. Why shouldn't YOU?" A radiant smile lighted
her face. "The king would not think of reproving the cat. I see no
reason why you should not look at a poor little countess with impunity."

"Do you think it would be possible for you to understand me any better
as Miss Cameron?" he asked bluntly.

"I think perhaps it would," she said, the smile fading.

"Then, I shall continue to look upon you as Miss Cameron, Countess. It
will make it easier for both of us."

"Yes," she said, a little sadly, "I am sure Miss Cameron would not be
half so dense as the Countess. She would understand perfectly. She has
grown to be a very discerning person, Mr. Barnes, notwithstanding her
extreme youth. Miss Cameron is only four days old, you see."

He bowed very low and said: "My proudest boast is that I have known her
since the day she was born. If I had the tongue and the courage of
O'Dowd I might add a great deal to that statement."

"A great deal that you would not say to a countess?" she asked, playing
with fire.

"A great deal that a child four days old could hardly be expected to
grasp, Miss Cameron," he replied, pointedly. "Having lived to a great
age myself, and acquired wisdom, I appreciate the futility of uttering
profound truths to an infant in arms."

She beamed. "O'Dowd could not have done any better than that," she
cried. Then quickly, even nervously, as he was about to speak again:
"Now, tell me all that Mr. O'Dowd had to say."

He seated himself and repeated the Irishman's warning. Her eyes clouded
as he went on; utter dejection came into them.

"He is right. It would be difficult for me to clear myself. My own
people would be against me. No one would believe that I did not
deliberately make off with the jewels. They would say that I - oh, it is
too dreadful!"

"Don't worry about that," he exclaimed. "You have me to testify that - "

"How little you know of intrigue," she cried. "They would laugh at you
and say that you were merely another fool who had lost his head over a
woman. They would say that I duped you - "

"No!" he cried vehemently. "Your people know better than you think. You
are disheartened, discouraged. Things will look brighter to-morrow.
Good heavens, think how much worse it might have been. That - that
infernal brute was going to force you into a vile, unholy marriage.
He - By the way," he broke off abruptly, "I have been thinking a lot
about what you told me. He couldn't have married you without your
consent. Such a marriage would never hold in a court of - "

"You are wrong," she said quietly. "He could have married me without my
consent, and it would have held, - not in one of your law courts, I dare
say, but in the court to which he and I belong by laws that were made
centuries before America was discovered. A prince of the royal house
may wed whom and when he chooses, provided he does not look too far
beneath his station. He may not wed a commoner. The state would not
recognise such a union. My consent was not necessary."

"But you are in my country now, not in yours," he argued. "Our laws
would have protected you."

"You do not understand. Marriages such as he contemplated are made
every year in Europe. Do you suppose that the royal marriages you read
about in the newspapers are made with the consent of the poor little
princes and princesses? Your laws are one thing, Mr. Barnes; our courts
are another. Need I be more explicit?"

"I think I understand," he said slowly. "Poor wretches!"

"Prince Ugo is of royal blood. I am not too far beneath him. In my
country his word is the law. The marriage that was to have been
celebrated to-day at Green Fancy would have bound me to him forever. It
would have been recognised in my country as legal. I have not the right
of appeal. I would not even be permitted to question his right to make
me his wife against my will. He is a prince. His will is law."

"Isn't love allowed to enter into a - "

"Love?" she scorned. "What has love to do with it? There isn't a queen
in all the world who loves - or loved, I would better say, - the man she
married. Some of them may have grown afterwards to love their kings,
because all kings are not alike. You may be quite sure, however, that
the wives of kings and princes did not marry their ideals; they did not
marry the men they loved. So, you see, it wouldn't have mattered in the
least to Prince Ugo whether I loved him or hated him. It was all the
same to him. It was enough that he loved me and wanted me. And besides,
laying sentiment aside, it wouldn't have been a bad stroke of business
on his part. He has a fair chance to sit on the throne of our country.
By placing me beside him on the throne he would be taking a long step
toward uniting the factions that are now bitterly opposing each other.
I am able to discuss all this very calmly with you now, Mr. Barnes, for
the nightmare is ended. I am here with you, alive and well. If you had
not come for me last night, I would now be sleeping the long sleep at
Green Fancy."

"You - you would have taken your own life?" he said, in a shocked voice.

"I would have spared myself the horror of letting him destroy it in a
slower, more painful fashion," she said, compressing her lips.

He did not speak at once. Looking into her troubled eyes, he said,
after a soulful moment: "I am glad that I came in time. You were made
to love and be loved. The man you love, - if there ever be one so
fortunate, - will be my debtor to the end of his days. I glorify myself
for having been instrumental in saving you for him."

"If there ever be one so fortunate," she mused. Suddenly her mood
changed. A new kind of despair came into her lovely eyes, a plaintive
note into her voice. (I may be pardoned for declaring that she became,
in the twinkling of an eye, a real flesh and blood woman.) "I don't
know what I shall do unless I can get something to wear, Mr. Barnes. I
haven't a thing, you see. This suit is - well, you can see what it is.
I - "

"I've never seen a more attractive suit," he pronounced. "I said as
much to myself the first time I saw it, the other evening at the
cross-roads. It fits - "

"But I cannot LIVE in it, you know. My boxes are up at Green
Fancy, - two small ones for steamer use. Everything I have in the world
is in them. Pray do not look so forlorn. You really couldn't have
carried them, Mr. Barnes, and I shudder when I think of what would have
happened to you if I had tumbled them out of the window upon your head.
You would have been squashed, and it isn't unlikely that you would have
aroused every one in the house with your groans and curses."

"I dropped a trunk on my toes one time," he said, grinning with a
delight that had nothing to do with the reminiscence. She was quaintly
humorous once more, and he was happy. "I think one swears more
prodigiously when a trunk falls on his toes than he does when it drops
on his head. There is something wonderfully quieting and soothing about
a trunk lighting on one's head from a great height. Don't worry about
your boxes. I have a feeling it will be perfectly safe to call for them
with a wagon to-morrow."

"I don't know what I should do without you," she said.

That evening at supper, Barnes and Mr. Rushcroft, to say nothing of
three or four "transients," had great cause for complaint about the
service. Miss Tilly was wholly pre-occupied. She was memorising her
"part." Instead of asking Mr. Rushcroft whether he would have bean soup
or noodles, she wanted to know whether she should speak the line this
way or that. She had a faraway, strained look in her eyes, and she
mumbled so incessantly that one of the guests got up and went out to
see Mr. Jones about it. Being assured that she was just a plain damn'
fool and not crazy, he returned and said a great many unpleasant things
in the presence of Miss Tilly, who fortunately did not hear them.

"You've spoiled a very good waitress, Rushcroft," said Barnes.

"And a very good appetite as well," growled the Star.

Late in the night, Barnes, sitting at his window dreaming dreams, saw
two big touring cars whiz past the tavern. The next morning Peter Ames,
the chauffeur, called him up on the telephone to inquire whether he had
heard anything more about the job on his sister's place. He was anxious
to know, he said, because everybody had cleared out of Green Fancy
during the night and he had received instructions to lock up the house
and look for another situation.




CHAPTER XVIII

MR. SPROUSE CONTINUES TO BE PERPLEXING, BUT PUTS HIS NOSE TO THE GROUND


The morning air was soft with the first real touch of spring. A quiet
haze lay over the valley; the lofty hills were enjoying a peaceful
smoke, and the sky was as blue as the turquoise. Birds shrilled a
fresh, gay carol; the song of the anvil had a new thrill of joy in
every inspiring note; the cawing of crows travelled melodiously across
the fields, roosters split their throats in vociferous acclaim to the
distant sun, and hens clucked a complacent chorus. The rattle of
kitchen pans was melody to the ear instead of torture; the squeaking of
pigs in the sty beyond the stable yard took on the dignity of music;
and the blue smoke that rose from chimneys near and far went dancing up
to wed the smiling sky.

Barnes was abroad early. Very greatly to his annoyance, he had slept


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