J. G. (Josiah Gilbert) Holland.

The Century illustrated monthly magazine (Volume v. 69) online

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He arose reluctantly. "Would you like
my flag to keep ? " he asked, taking it out
of his pocket.

"Oh, thank you!" exclaimed the httle
princess. " I '11 give you something, too.
"Would you hke — this finger-ring? It 's
too small, though."

" I can wear it on my little finger," he
assured her. " I 'm very much obliged.
Well, good-by."

" Good-by. You won't forget to come ? "

"'Course I won't," declared the boy.
" My birthday will come every year to help
me remember."

" Princess Hildegarde ! " calledthe nurse
once more.

The little princess stepped nearer and
lifted her face for a kiss.

" Good-by," she said again.

The boy stooped to bestow the kiss.
"Good-by," he said. "You be sure and
be in the garden when I come."

"Yes, I '11 be here," she rephed.

The boy turned away with a gay little
nod of the head and disappeared in the
shrubbery, and the little princess took up
her basket of roses and went slowly back
to her nurse.



"Across the hills, and far away

Beyond their utmost purple rim,
And deep into the dying day

The happy princess follow'd him."

The httle princess was no longer a sad
httle princess, she was no longer lonely in
her beautiful garden. Imagination, which
hes latent in the mind of every child, hke
the slumbering Beauty in the old nursery
tale, had been touched to hfe at last by
the sympathy of another child.

The boy had invaded the garden for
one brief hour of a summer day. The lit-
tle princess was never alone now. He
came every day to play with her in the
garden, and she wandered about, showing



him her favorite haunts and telling him her
secrets.

" Boy, what will you play to-day ? " she
always began.

Sometimes they kept house in the bower ;
sometimes he taught her to chmb trees, if
the nurse was not by.

When they wearied of the garden, or if
he did not come, she would go to see him.
It was very simple — only to lie down on
the soft turf in her bower and close her
deep-fringed eyes. Then she was hurrying
up the gravel walk to the white house, and
the boy always ran to meet her, and they
would play and play and play.

The happy days passed swiftly and the
years waxed and waned, each bringing one
memorable day in midsummer when the
little princess would steal down the stone
staircase to her garden and whisper joy-
ously to every happy bird and flower or
dear familiar tree : " nine years," " eight
years," " seven," " six," and at last, " in five
years he will come ! "

And although the princess grew and
grew like one of her own little rose-trees,
and although her dresses were made longer
and her yellow hair caught back in yellow
braids, she always thought of him as j ust her
boy — a plain boy who, somewhere away
across the wide ocean, hved in the big white
house with the gravel walk and the stable
and the apple-tree which was so grand to
climb or to read in.

But there came a day at last which made
a difference — a day when they told her that
she was no longer a child, that she was
almost a young lady, quite old enough to
attend fetes and to peep in for a brief time
at gay entertainments given by the prince,
her brother.

The little princess wandered down the
stone stairway to her garden and looked
upon it with new eyes. So she was no
longer a child. She was to be admitted to
the gay world which she had viewed only
from a distance. She was almost a young
lady.

"And what are you?" she suddenly
asked the boy. She shut her eyes and tried
hard to think. " You must be almost grown,
too," she said. " Ye-es, I see you. You are
tall, — taller than I am,— but your face
won't look old one bit. I wonder if you are
done with school, or are you going to a
university ? I must read about your univer-
sities."




Color drawing by Maxfield Parrish
'I AM SICK OF BEING A PRINXESS'



THE PRINCESS AND THE BOY



265



The little princess was introduced to the
gold and glitter of the wtjrld, and, being
young, she liked it.

She was a fair little princess to gaze
upon, and people made much of her. She
came to know other young princesses, and
wondered if they had beautiful garden
secrets like hers. She met gallant young
noblemen, and when they bowed before
her and made pretty speeches, she thought
of her plain boy away across the seas, and
wondered how he compared with them.

She never forgot the boy. In the midst
of the gayest throng she would sometimes
shut her eyes for an instant and ask him a
question. And if she grew weary of her
companions, she would seek a quiet corner
and run away to the white house, or read
with him in the apple-tree.

Whenever she felt like being a little girl
again, he was always the little boy who had
found her in the garden on that midsum-
mer day. It was easier to find him so. To
try and see him the youth he must be was
always a little difficult. That he might not
care to come to her garden now never once
occurred to her until one unhappy summer
day.

It was the day of the whole summer, and
the little princess had run down to her
garden and whispered gaily to the roses,
" Only two years, my blossoms ; two years
only from this day, and my boy will come ! "

She could not have the roses all to her-
self upon this day. There was to be a fete
in the garden.

The afternoon brought fair ladies, who
fluttered hke brilliant butterflies among the
shrubbery ; happy young men followed
them hither and thither, like eager ento-
mologists ; and placid dowagers and their
lords rested beneath the old trees or sat in
the gay pavilions which had been erected
near the fountain.

The Princess Hildegarde, being only
sixteen, was still regarded as something of
an onlooker upon such occasions ; but there
was more than one young nobleman who
enjoyed watching the shy droop of her
eyes and her pretty confusion when he
paid her a compliment.

The princess was standing apart near
the rose-trees when she saw one of these
young men approaching. She did not wish
to be disturbed by any admirers upon this
day, and as he paused on his way, to speak
to the prince, her brother, the Princess



Hildegarde glided off among the trees and
hid at last in the old bf>wer of her child-
hood. It was quite overgrown now, and
she laughed softly as she sank down on
the grass.

" He can't find me here," she said. " Oh,
boy, how much more fun it would be to
talk with you ! You will know where to
find me this day two years from now."

Suddenly she heard voices a[)f>roaching.

" And she expected him to remember a
promise made years before? "

It was the laughing voice of a young
English duchess.

" Indeed ! " exclaimed the man who ac-
companied her. " And why not, pray ? "

" You, a man, ask me that question ? "
cried the duchess. " Does a man ever re-
member a promise so long as that ? No !

" ' Men were deceivers ever ;

One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.'"

The bantering voices drifted away again,
but a white and startled little princess sat
up very straight on the grass and clasped
her hands together.

It was some moments before she realized
that the passers-by had not been speaking
of her and of her boy. When she did realize
it, however, she was no less miserable. The
taunting words of the young duchess still
echoed in her heart.

Were men deceivers ever? Did they
always forget promises ? Well, boys did
not forget, she was sure ; her boy would
not forget. And yet he had told her that
he, too, would be a man then.

The little princess was a sadder little
princess from that hour ; she was paying
the price demanded for that wisdom which
must come to all maidens, whether they be
princesses or no.

She no longer visited her garden with
thoughtless joy singing at her heart. When
she entered the happy dream-world in
which she and the boy lived together she
told herself that it was just dreaming. She
watched the young men she knew, and saw
them smile first upon one girl and then upon
another ; she read books which told her
the same sad story. The boy must have
seen a great many little girls since that
summer day when he had found her in the
garden. Perhaps he had forgotten.

Yet the years had taught her one other
thing; they had taught her that a little



266



THE CENTURY MAGAZINE



princess is not quite like other little girls,
no matter how much she may want to be.
It was possible, then, that the boy might
remember his promise to a princess when
he would forget a promise to a plain girl.
And while it might be all a dream, it was
a dream that had made her childhood very
sweet, and she was not going to let it go
altogether until the fateful day had come
and. gone, leaving the promise unfulfilled.

So the Princess Hildegarde continued
to grow like the rose-trees, and her fresh
beauty unfolded slowly and gently, like
the petals of the rose.

The world of gold and glitter claimed
her and bowed before her more and more,
but the world of her own thoughts re-
mained as pvu-e and sweet as the thought-
world of the little child princess in the
garden.

She did not forget the boy, although she
often smiled at herself for remembering.
When the next anniversary came she went
to the green bower in the garden and said
as of old, " One year from this day, only
one year, and he will come." But this time
she added with a sad little smile, " perhaps."

And on this day something happened.

The princess returned to her own apart-
ments, and while she was bending over a
favorite book she was startled by the voice
of the prince, her brother.

" My sister, I would have a word with
you," he said.

The princess closed her book and dis-
missed the little maid in waiting. " Well,"
she said.

Her brother smiled into the upturned
face. " Do you know how old you are ? "
he asked.

" Not yet eighteen," replied the princess,
returning the smile.

" A child no longer," he went on. " Nay,
quite a woman."

The princess glanced into the long mirror
opposite.

" Well ? " she said again.

The prince hesitated a moment ; then,
" Do you realize that you are quite old
enough to be thinking of marriage, my
dear ? " he asked.

" Marriage ! " The little princess sprang
up, startled. She remembered suddenly
the old tale of her niu^se — the tale of the
grand prince who would come and carry
her away to his kingdom. She looked anx-
iously over her brother's shoulder, as



though she feared to see the royal suitor
standing there.

" I have no wish to marry," she de-
clared wilfully.

"Ah, that is a pity," remarked her
brother, lifting his eyebrows, "since there
are those who would wish to marry you.
Be serious, my sister ; for I have come to
you as ambassador of no less a person than
that worthy prince whose principality ad-
joins oiur own. He has done us the honor
to request your hand in marriage."

The Princess Hildegarde turned fright-
ened eyes upon her brother.

"That old man! " she gasped.

"He is not so old," replied the prince.

" He is very ugly," retiu-ned the princess ;
" and he looks very wicked. I do not de-
sire to marry him."

" Tut, tut ! " cried the prince. " It would
be a wise and advantageous marriage. My
sister must not be hasty in her decisions.
A princess has to regard the good of the
state when she marries."

The httle princess turned her wretched
eyes to the casement. " O that I had
never been bom a princess ! " she cried
bitterly.

" But you were born a princess," said
her brother, firmly. " The Princess Hilde-
garde shall never have an unwelcome
marriage forced upon her, but she will do
well to regard the pleasure of her people."

The little princess looked down into her
garden, and a wave of heartsick despair
swept over her. Suddenly she remembered
the day. Before her rose a vision of the
boy, and he was a boy no longer.

She faced her brother resolutely. " Your
highness," she began, "it is an unwelcome
marriage ; any marriage would be unwel-
come. I am too young ; I will not give
myself even to please my people. I crave
of you one great boon — that you will not
speak to me on this subject, or any akin to
it, for a whole year."

" And is this the answer that I am to
carry to the prince ? "

" It will do very well," she said.

Her brother laughed scornfully. "And
you think that the worthy prince will wait
a whole year for you to make up your
mind ? "

" I do not desire him to wait," rephed
the little princess. " Until one year from
this day I will say no more."

She turned back to her contemplation



THE PRINCESS AND THE BOY



267



of the garden, and, for all his annoyance,
the prince could not but admire the firm
little chin and the erect head.

" She is little, but she is mighty," he
murmured. Then, " The lady mother tells
me that the Princess Hildegarde reads too
many English books ; that she has opinions
and a will of her own. My sister, I fear
me she is right."

"Yes, I fear me she is right," returned
the little princess.

Ill
"He travels far from other skies —

He comes, scarce knowing what he seeks :
He breaks the hedge : he enters there :
The color flies into his cheeks :
He trusts to light on something fair;
For all his life the charm did talk
About his path, and hover near
With words of promise in his walk,
And whisper'd voices at his ear."

It was the day for which she had been
waiting the ten longest years of her life —
for the years of childhood and early youth
are always long. The Princess Hildegarde
stood at her casement window, and her
heart beat fast as she looked down into
the garden.

" My last day of freedom," she whis-
pered. " For this one day I will dream the
old dream and be happy. To-morrow — "
she shuddered and turned to her maiden
in waiting.

"Janet," she said, "you may go to the
housekeeper and bid her put up a luncheon
in a basket — a dainty luncheon for a pic-
nic. I am going on a little holiday all by
myself. Tell her to be quick, please."

The surprised maiden turned away to do
her bidding, but the princess spoke again.
The maid could not see her face, for she
was gazing from the casement.

" Let it be a generous luncheon, Janet,"
she said ; " I am likely to be hungry."

When the basket was brought in, the
princess took it in her own hand. She had
tied on a broad-brimmed sun-hat over her
yellow hair, and stood waiting when the
maid returned.

" I will take it myself," she said in answer
to the questioning in Janet's eyes. " I de-
sire to go alone. If any one inquires, you
may say that I am spending the day in my
garden and do not wish to be disturbed."

So saying, she took up a book, and with



the little basket on her arm went slowly
down the stone stairway to the garden.
Her heart was beating furiously, and she
pre.ssed her hand against it.

" You little fool ! you little fool ! " she
kept repeating, but the words were a hol-
low mockery. In the depths of that flut-
tering heart she believed as firmly that he
would come as she had ever believed it.

And because of this unadmitted belief
her heart trembled with fear also — fear for
what his coming would mean ; fear for his
personal safety. It was no light thing for
a stranger to enter by stealth the garden
of the prince. Ah, if he were seen and
taken before he reached her, and she
should never know — never be able to help
him ! Or suppose he did come and they
should be discovered ! She had dared give
no further orders, lest suspicion be aroused
in her brother's breast.

And what if he came and they were not
discovered ? What could it mean, this
meeting ? Would he be still the boy of her
long dream, or only a disappointment ?
And if he were the boy ? She smiled piti-
fully as she thought of the childish troth
so carelessly plighted. No one knew better
than she the impossibility of its fulfilment.
Yet she went resolutely on to keep the
tryst.

" I wish I knew when he would come,'"
she murmured to herself. "It was in the
morning before, but it may not be in the
morning now. Oh, I wish I knew ! "

She reached the rose bower and set her
basket down. Then she sank on the grass
herself and opened her book, but she could
not read. Her eyes were constantly wan-
dering to that spot in the shrubbery where
the boy had disappeared ten years before.

An hour passed, and another, when she
sprang to her feet at last, startled by break-
ing twigs.

The forester stood before her, hat in
hand. " A thousand pardons, your high-
ness," he began, " I fear that I alarmed
you. I am in search of a young doe that
has strayed from the park. Your highness
has not seen her ? "

" No, no," returned the princess, a little
quickly. " But you did startle me. Please
search in some other quarter of the grounds.
The doe is not about here."

The man bowed low and retreated, and
the princess sank back upon her grassy
seat.



268



THE CENTURY MAGAZINE



" Little fool ! little fool ! " she murmured
aloud, and then she lifted her eyes and
saw him.

" It is the Princess Hildegarde ? " he
said, and he stepped out from the shadow
of the trees.

But the tongue of the little princess re-
fused to move. The color faded from her
cheeks and then rushed back again, and
her frightened eyes scanned his face.

He stepped nearer and bent over her.
" Have you forgotten ? " he said.

The eyes she met were frank, fearless eyes
— the eyes of the boy. Indeed, his face was
singularly boylike still, as in her vague
dream-vision. He had outgrown knicker-
bockers and round collars, that was all.

"You are — you are my boy," she whis-
pered faintly. " You did come."

" Of course I came," he replied cheer-
fully. " I said I would, you know. Did n't
you expect me ? "

" I did not know," she faltered ; then she
looked up courageously. " I knew you
would," she said.

"Of course," he replied. "I had a
scramble to do it, though. Sailed right
after graduation. I thought at first I should
have to cut that, but there was no way of
explaining it, you see. When I reached
this side of the water, I had a merry chase
to reach here on time. Only arrived an
hour ago. Well, do you want to play ?
Are the golden balls ready ? "

He laughed gaily, and the last bit of
frightened shyness passed away from the
little princess.

" Oh," she sighed happily, " you are the
boy ! ' '

" Did you doubt it ? " he asked. " Well,
I suppose I have changed a bit." And he
glanced down at his long legs. " I have
something to identify myself, however."
And dropping lightly on the grass beside
her, he pointed to a little circlet of tur-
quoise which hung upon his watch-chain.

" My ring! " she cried. "And you kept
it all this time ? "

He smiled into her eyes.

" Do you think a fellow values so lightly
the gift of a princess ? " he asked.

" Do you remember what you gaveme ?"
she said. " See, I brought it in my pocket
to show you." And she spread out on the
grass between them the small silk flag.

He touched it gently. " And you have
kept it all this time ? "



" One does not value hghtly the gift of
a plain boy," she said. And then they both
laughed happily.

She looked at him a httle wistfully at
last. " It 's so real, your being here," she
said ; " too real to be true. It is like one
of the dreams."

" Ah, the dreaming ? " he asked eagerly.
" We were to talk of the dreams, were n't
we, if we did n't care to play ? "

" How much you remember! " she said
admiringly. "They said — I thought men
always forgot such things."

" What about the dreams ? " he asked
again.

She looked down at him as he lay there
at her feet, and smiled happily. " I suppose
it seems so natural because of them," she
said; "for of course you 've been here
every day, or I 've been there."

" At my place ? Good ! " he cried. " I
was afraid it had not been the same with
you."

" Then you dreamed, too ? " She waited
breathless for his confirmation.

" Did n't I tell you how ? " he cried.
" Of course I dreamed."

" It is strange," she said solemnly. " Are
you real ? Is n't this a dream, after all ?
Oh, hush ! " And she sprang up, her finger
on her lips, and peered through the bushes.

" I thought that meddlesome forester
was coming this way again," she said at
last, the alarm fading from her eyes.

"I had to dodge him," said her guest,
with no trace of uneasiness. " It was lucky
he had no dog. I had been standing be-
hind that tree for some time, watching you.
I wanted to be sure that you were you
before I came out, you see."

" Oh, suppose he had seen you ! " gasped
the princess.

" What then ? Should I have been bound
in chains and cast into a dungeon cell ?
That sort of thing is rather out of date,
is n't it? "

" I hope so," said the princess ; but she
did not smile. " I do not know just what
would happen, but I am sure it would not
be well for you. Oh, I suppose it is dread-
ful of me to be meeting you so. I suppose
it is — not a proper thing."

The boy looked at her, surprised.

" Is not the Princess Hildegarde at
liberty to receive whom she pleases ? " he
asked.

She shook her head. " And this is hardly



THE PRINCESS AND THE BOY



269



' receiving,' is it ? " she said. " Is it not what
one would call a clandestine meeting ? "

" Perhaps so," he laughed ; " but does n't
that make it more fun ? I came this way
because I promised to meet you here.
Should I have gone to the front door and
pulled the bell, or have knocked at the
portal, or whatever you call it, and pre-
sented my card ? "

" No, no," she cried. " Oh, that would
never do, but — " . She hung her head shyly.

The smile died from her visitor's lips.
" Princess," he said, " ten years ago we
promised each other this little meeting.
Is it wrong to fulfil a promise ? Why not
enjoy our little adventure as long as we are
here ? You are a princess, to be sure ; but I
hope that I am a gentleman — and anything
is forgiven an American ! Shall we play
together, or would you rather I went away ?
I will go this minute if my presence here
is likely to cause you embarrassment."

She looked up with sudden courage in
her eyes. "You are right," she said. "I
will not be afraid any more. It is my last
happy day, and I shall spend it as I
choose."

" Your last happy day ? " he repeated
questioningly.

" Oh, never mind that little — figure of
speech, do you call it ? See, the sun is
quite overhead. Is it not time for lunch-
eon ? " And she opened the little basket
and spread a snowy napkin between them
on the grass.

"How jolly!" he declared, as she set
forth the dainty repast and ordered him
to begin.

'" Underneath a bough,
A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou
Beside me.'"

" Was n't I thoughtful ? " she said, show-
ing her dimples. " Was it not good of me,
even on this day, to remember that boys
are always hungry ? "

" Do you know," he said, smiling con-
tentedly, " I am afraid I am horribly dis-
respectful, but I can't seem to make myself
feel awed in your presence. A fellow
should use a different sort of language,
should n't he, in addressing royalty ? "

" Oh, please don't," cried the princess,
dismayed. " It is because you have always
treated me like a plain girl that I like you
so well. I am so very tired of hearing
'your highness' this, and 'yoiu- high-



ness' that. You— oh, you must n't, you
know! "

He laughed. " I 'm immensely reUeved,"
he said ; " for really I 'm not at all familiar
with the code. In our country we have no
kings and princes, except those of oil and
sugar, and we do not address them with
proper reverence."

The princess looked puzzled.

"That was nonsense," he explained;
" but really I suppose I might be in awe
of you if I had not been your playmate
every day for ten years."

Her face lighted up. " Oh, let us talk
of that," she cried, and began to ply him
with eager questions.

" And you did go to the university ? "
she said at length.

" Yes, it is the regulation thing in our
family : Harvard ; three months abroad ;
then business or a profession. It will be
business in my case."

" Oh, then you will follow a trade ? ' she
asked.

" If you like," he smiled. " My trade
will be banking."

"Are there — are there many girls in
America ? " she asked next.

" Well, a few." And the comers of his
mouth twitched.

" I suppose you know very many ? "

"Very many, but — "

" But ? "

" But there is no princess among them."

" No, you have told me before that there
are no princesses in America."

" Pardon me," he said ; " there is a prin-
cess for every man — when he finds her."

" Oh," she said, " you have not met her,
then."

" Yes," he replied ; " but not in America."

The princess took up a rose that he had



Online LibraryJ. G. (Josiah Gilbert) HollandThe Century illustrated monthly magazine (Volume v. 69) → online text (page 30 of 118)