The Princess Aline
"The course of true love certainly runs smoothly with you," said Miss Morris, as they seated themselves at the table. "What is your next move? What do you mean to do now?"
"The rest is very simple," said Carlton. "To-morrow morning I will go to the Row; I will be sure to find some one there who knows all about them—where they are going, and who they are seeing, and what engagements they may have. Then it will only be a matter of looking up some friend in the Household or in one of the embassies who can present me."
"Oh," said Miss Morris, in the tone of keenest disappointment, "but that is such a commonplace ending! You started out so romantically. Couldn't you manage to meet her in a less conventional way?"
"I am afraid not," said Carlton. "You see, I want to meet her very much, and to meet her very soon, and the quickest way of meeting her, whether it's romantic or not, isn't a bit too quick for me. There will be romance enough after I am presented, if I have my way."
But Carlton was not to have his way; for he had overlooked the fact that it requires as many to make an introduction as a bargain, and he had left the Duke of Hohenwald out of his considerations. He met many people he knew in the Row the next morning; they asked him to lunch, and brought their horses up to the rail, and he patted the horses' heads, and led the conversation around to the royal wedding, and through it to the Hohenwalds. He learned that they had attended a reception at the German Embassy on the previous night, and it was one of the secretaries of that embassy who informed him of their intended departure that morning on the eleven o'clock train to Paris.
"To Paris!" cried Carlton, in consternation. "What! all of them?"
"Yes, all of them, of course. Why?" asked the young German. But Carlton was already dodging across the tan-bark to Piccadilly and waving his stick at a hansom.
Nolan met him at the door of Brown's Hotel with an anxious countenance.
"Their Royal Highnesses have gone, sir," he said. "But I've packed your trunks and sent them to the station. Shall I follow them, sir?"
"Yes," said Carlton. "Follow the trunks and follow the Hohenwalds. I will come over on the Club train at four. Meet me at the station, and tell me to what hotel they have gone. Wait; if I miss you, you can find me at the Hotel Continental; but if they go straight on through Paris, you go with them, and telegraph me here and to the Continental. Telegraph at every station, so I can keep track of you. Have you enough money?"
"I have, sir—enough for a long trip, sir."
"Well, you'll need it," said Carlton, grimly. "This is going to be a long trip. It is twenty minutes to eleven now; you will have to hurry. Have you paid my bill here?"
"I have, sir," said Nolan.
"Then get off, and don't lose sight of those people again."
Carlton attended to several matters of business, and then lunched with Mrs. Downs and her niece. He had grown to like them very much, and was sorry to lose sight of them, but consoled himself by thinking he would see them a few days at least in Paris. He judged that he would be there for some time, as he did not think the Princess Aline and her sisters would pass through that city without stopping to visit the shops on the Rue de la Paix.
"All women are not princesses," he argued, "but all princesses are women."
"We will be in Paris on Wednesday," Mrs. Downs told him. "The Orient Express leaves there twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, and we have taken an apartment for next Thursday, and will go right on to Constantinople."
"But I thought you said you had to buy a lot of clothes there?" Carlton expostulated.
Mrs. Downs said that they would do that on their way home.
Nolan met Carlton at the station, and told him that he had followed the Hohenwalds to the Hotel Meurice. "There is the Duke, sir, and the three Princesses," Nolan said, "and there are two German gentlemen acting as equerries, and an English captain, a sort of A.D.C. to the Duke, and two elderly ladies, and eight servants. They travel very simple, sir, and their people are in undress livery. Brown and red, sir."
Carlton pretended not to listen to this. He had begun to doubt but that Nolan's zeal would lead him into some indiscretion, and would end disastrously to himself. He spent the evening alone in front of the Cafe de la Paix, pleasantly occupied in watching the life and movement of that great meeting of the highways. It did not seem possible that he had ever been away. It was as though he had picked up a book and opened it at the page and place at which he had left off reading it a moment before. There was the same type, the same plot, and the same characters, who were doing the same characteristic things. Even the waiter who tipped out his coffee knew him; and he knew, or felt as though he knew, half of those who passed, or who shared with him the half of the sidewalk. The women at the next table considered the slim, good-looking young American with friendly curiosity, and the men with them discussed him in French, until a well-known Parisian recognized Carlton in passing, and hailed him joyously in the same language, at which the women laughed and the men looked sheepishly conscious.
On the following morning Carlton took up his post in the open court of the Meurice, with his coffee and the Figaro to excuse his loitering there. He had not been occupied with these over-long before Nolan approached him, in some excitement, with the information that their Royal Highnesses—as he delighted to call them—were at that moment "coming down the lift."
Carlton could hear their voices, and wished to step around the corner and see them; it was for this chance he had been waiting; but he could not afford to act in so undignified a manner before Nolan, so he merely crossed his legs nervously, and told the servant to go back to the rooms.
"Confound him!" he said; "I wish he would let me conduct my own affairs in my own way. If I don't stop him, he'll carry the Princess Aline off by force and send me word where he has hidden her."
The Hohenwalds had evidently departed for a day's outing, as up to five o'clock they had not returned; and Carlton, after loitering all the afternoon, gave up waiting for them, and went out to dine at Laurent's, in the Champs Elysees. He had finished his dinner, and was leaning luxuriously forward, with his elbows on the table, and knocking the cigar ashes into his coffee-cup. He was pleasantly content. The trees hung heavy with leaves over his head, a fountain played and overflowed at his elbow, and the lamps of the fiacres passing and repassing on the Avenue of the Champs Elysees shone like giant fire-flies through the foliage. The touch of the gravel beneath his feet emphasized the free, out-of-door charm of the place, and the faces of the others around him looked more than usually cheerful in the light of the candles flickering under the clouded shades. His mind had gone back to his earlier student days in Paris, when life always looked as it did now in the brief half-hour of satisfaction which followed a cold bath or a good dinner, and he had forgotten himself and his surroundings. It was the voices of the people at the table behind him that brought him back to the present moment. A man was talking; he spoke in English, with an accent.
"I should like to go again through the Luxembourg," he said; "but you need not be bound by what I do."
"I think it would be pleasanter if we all keep together," said a girl's voice, quietly. She also spoke in English, and with the same accent.
The people whose voices had interrupted him were sitting and standing around a long table, which the waiters had made large enough for their party by placing three of the smaller ones side by side; they had finished their dinner, and the women, who sat with their backs towards Carlton, were pulling on their gloves.
"Which is it to be, then?" said the gentleman, smiling. "The pictures or the dressmakers?"
The girl who had first spoken turned to the one next to her.
"Which would you rather do, Aline?" she asked.
Carlton moved so suddenly that the men behind him looked at him curiously; but he turned, nevertheless, in his chair and faced them, and in order to excuse his doing so beckoned to one of the waiters. He was within two feet of the girl who had been called "Aline." She raised her head to speak, and saw Carlton staring open-eyed at her. She glanced at him for an instant, as if to assure herself that she did not know him, and then, turning to her brother, smiled in the same tolerant, amused way in which she had so often smiled upon Carlton from the picture.
"I am afraid I had rather go to the Bon March," she said.
One of the waiters stepped in between them, and Carlton asked him for his bill; but when it came he left it lying on the plate, and sat staring out into the night between the candles, puffing sharply on his cigar, and recalling to his memory his first sight of the Princess Aline of Hohenwald.
That night, as he turned into bed, he gave a comfortable sigh of content. "I am glad she chose the dressmakers instead of the pictures," he said.
Mrs. Downs and Miss Morris arrived in Paris on Wednesday, and expressed their anxiety to have Carlton lunch with them, and to hear him tell of the progress of his love-affair. There was not much to tell; the Hohenwalds had come and gone from the hotel as freely as any other tourists in Paris, but the very lack of ceremony about their movements was in itself a difficulty. The manner of acquaintance he could make in the court of the Hotel Meurice with one of the men over a cup of coffee or a glass of bock would be as readily discontinued as begun, and for his purpose it would have been much better if the Hohenwalds had been living in state with a visitors' book and a chamberlain.
On Wednesday evening Carlton took the ladies to the opera, where the Hohenwalds occupied a box immediately opposite them. Carlton pretended to be surprised at this fact, but Mrs. Downs doubted his sincerity.
"I saw Nolan talking to their courier to-day," she said, "and I fancy he asked a few leading questions."
"Well, he didn't learn much if he did," he said. "The fellow only talks German."
"Ah, then he has been asking questions!" said Miss Morris.
"Well, he does it on his own responsibility," said Carlton, "for I told him to have nothing to do with servants. He has too much zeal, has Nolan; I'm afraid of him."
"If you were only half as interested as he is," said Miss Morris, "you would have known her long ago."
"Long ago?" exclaimed Carlton. "I only saw her four days since."
"She is certainly very beautiful," said Miss Morris, looking across the auditorium.
"But she isn't there," said Carlton.
"That's the eldest sister; the two other sisters went out on the coach this morning to Versailles, and were too tired to come tonight. At least, so Nolan says. He seems to have established a friendship for their English maid, but whether it's on my account or his own I don't know. I doubt his unselfishness."
"How disappointing of her!" said Miss Morris. "And after you had selected a box just across the way, too. It is such a pity to waste it on us." Carlton smiled, and looked up at her impudently, as though he meant to say something; but remembering that she was engaged to be married, changed his mind, and lowered his eyes to his programme.
"Why didn't you say it?" asked Miss Morris, calmly, turning her glass to the stage. "Wasn't it pretty?"
"No," said Carlton—"not pretty enough."
The ladies left the hotel the next day to take the Orient Express, which left Paris at six o'clock. They had bidden Carlton goodbye at four the same afternoon, and as he had come to their rooms for that purpose, they were in consequence a little surprised to see him at the station, running wildly along the platform, followed by Nolan and a porter. He came into their compartment after the train had started, and shook his head sadly at them from the door.
"Well, what do you think of this?" he said. "You can't get rid of me, you see. I'm going with you."
"Going with us?" asked Mrs. Downs. "How far?"
Carlton laughed, and, coming inside, dropped onto the cushions with a sigh. "I don't know," he said, dejectedly. "All the way, I'm afraid. That is, I mean, I'm very glad I am to have your society for a few days more; but really I didn't bargain for this."
"You don't mean to tell me that THEY are on this train?" said Miss Morris.
"They are," said Carlton. "They have a car to themselves at the rear. They only made up their minds to go this morning, and they nearly succeeded in giving me the slip again; but it seems that their English maid stopped Nolan in the hall to bid him good-bye, and so he found out their plans. They are going direct to Constantinople, and then to Athens. They had meant to stay in Paris two weeks longer, it seems, but they changed their minds last night. It was a very close shave for me. I only got back to the hotel in time to hear from the concierge that Nolan had flown with all of my things, and left word for me to follow. Just fancy! Suppose I had missed the train, and had had to chase him clear across the continent of Europe with not even a razor—"
"I am glad," said Miss Morris, "that Nolan has not taken a fancy to ME. I doubt if I could resist such impetuosity."
The Orient Express, in which Carlton and the mistress of his heart and fancy were speeding towards the horizon's utmost purple rim, was made up of six cars, one dining-car with a smoking-apartment attached, and five sleeping-cars, including the one reserved for the Duke of Hohenwald and his suite. These cars were lightly built, and rocked in consequence, and the dust raised by the rapid movement of the train swept through cracks and open windows, and sprinkled the passengers with a fine and irritating coating of soot and earth. There was one servant to the entire twenty-two passengers. He spoke eight languages, and never slept; but as his services were in demand by several people in as many different cars at the same moment he satisfied no one, and the complaint-box in the smoking-car was stuffed full to the slot in consequence before they had crossed the borders of France.
Carlton and Miss Morris went out upon one of the platforms and sat down upon a tool-box. "It's isn't as comfortable here as in an observation-car at home," said Carlton, "but it's just as noisy."
He pointed out to her from time to time the peasants gathering twigs, and the blue-bloused gendarmes guarding the woods and the fences skirting them. "Nothing is allowed to go to waste in this country," he said. "It looks as though they went over it once a month with a lawn-mower and a pruning-knife. I believe they number the trees as we number the houses."
"And did you notice the great fortifications covered with grass?" she said. "We have passed such a lot of them."
"And did you notice that they all faced only one way?"
Carlton laughed, and nodded again. "Towards Germany," he said.
By the next day they had left the tall poplars and white roads behind them, and were crossing the land of low shiny black helmets and brass spikes. They had come into a country of low mountains and black forests, with old fortified castles topping the hills, and with red-roofed villages scattered around the base.
"How very military it all is!" Mrs. Downs said. "Even the men at the lonely little stations in the forests wear uniforms; and do you notice how each of them rolls up his red flag and holds it like a sword, and salutes the train as it passes?"
They spent the hour during which the train shifted from one station in Vienna to the other driving about in an open carriage, and stopped for a few moments in front of a cafe to drink beer and to feel solid earth under them again, returning to the train with a feeling which was almost that of getting back to their own rooms. Then they came to great steppes covered with long thick grass, and flooded in places with little lakes of broken ice; great horned cattle stood knee-deep in this grass, and at the villages and way-stations were people wearing sheepskin jackets and waistcoats covered with silver buttons. In one place there was a wedding procession waiting for the train to pass, with the friends of the bride and groom in their best clothes, the women with silver breastplates, and boots to their knees. It seemed hardly possible that only two days before they had seen another wedding party in the Champs Elysees, where the men wore evening dress, and the women were bareheaded and with long trains. In forty-eight hours they had passed through republics, principalities, empires, and kingdoms, and from spring to winter. It was like walking rapidly over a painted panorama of Europe.
On the second evening Carlton went off into the smoking-car alone. The Duke of Hohenwald and two of his friends had finished a late supper, and were seated in the apartment adjoining it. The Duke was a young man with a heavy beard and eyeglasses. He was looking over an illustrated catalogue of the Salon, and as Carlton dropped on the sofa opposite the Duke raised his head and looked at him curiously, and then turned over several pages of the catalogue and studied one of them, and then back at Carlton, as though he were comparing him with something on the page before him. Carlton was looking out at the night, but he could follow what was going forward, as it was reflected in the glass of the car window. He saw the Duke hand the catalogue to one of the equerries, who raised his eyebrows and nodded his head in assent. Carlton wondered what this might mean, until he remembered that there was a portrait of himself by a French artist in the Salon, and concluded it had been reproduced in the catalogue. He could think of nothing else which would explain the interest the two men showed in him. On the morning following he sent Nolan out to purchase a catalogue at the first station at which they stopped, and found that his guess was a correct one. A portrait of himself had been reproduced in black and white, with his name below it.
"Well, they know who I am now," he said to Miss Morris, "even if they don't know me. That honor is still in store for them."
"I wish they did not lock themselves up so tightly," said Miss Morris. "I want to see her very much. Cannot we walk up and down the platform at the next station? She may be at the window."
"Of course," said Carlton. "You could have seen her at Buda-Pesth if you had spoken of it. She was walking up and down then. The next time the train stops we will prowl up and down and feast our eyes upon her."
But Miss Morris had her wish gratified without that exertion. The Hohenwalds were served in the dining-car after the other passengers had finished, and were in consequence only to be seen when they passed by the doors of the other compartments. But this same morning, after luncheon, the three Princesses, instead of returning to their own car, seated themselves in the compartment adjoining the dining-car, while the men of their party lit their cigars and sat in a circle around them.
"I was wondering how long they could stand three men smoking in one of the boxes they call cars," said Mrs. Downs. She was seated between Miss Morris and Carlton, directly opposite the Hohenwalds, and so near them that she had to speak in a whisper. To avoid doing this Miss Morris asked Carlton for a pencil, and scribbled with it in the novel she held on her lap. Then she passed them both back to him, and said, aloud: "Have you read this? It has such a pretty dedication." The dedication read, "Which is Aline?" And Carlton, taking the pencil in his turn, made a rapid sketch of her on the fly-leaf, and wrote beneath it: "This is she. Do you wonder I travelled four thousand miles to see her?"
Miss Morris took the book again, and glanced at the sketch, and then at the three Princesses, and nodded her head. "It is very beautiful," she said, gravely, looking out at the passing landscape.
"Well, not beautiful exactly," answered Carlton, surveying the hills critically, "but certainly very attractive. It is worth travelling a long way to see, and I should think one would grow very fond of it."
Miss Morris tore the fly-leaf out of the book, and slipped it between the pages. "May I keep it?" she said. Carlton nodded. "And will you sign it?" she asked, smiling. Carlton shrugged his shoulders, and laughed. "If you wish it," he answered.
The Princess wore a gray cheviot travelling dress, as did her sisters, and a gray Alpine hat. She was leaning back, talking to the English captain who accompanied them, and laughing. Carlton thought he had never seen a woman who appealed so strongly to every taste of which he was possessed. She seemed so sure of herself, so alert, and yet so gracious, so easily entertained, and yet, when she turned her eyes towards the strange, dismal landscape, so seriously intent upon its sad beauty. The English captain dropped his head, and with the pretence of pulling at his mustache, covered his mouth as he spoke to her. When he had finished he gazed consciously at the roof of the car, and she kept her eyes fixed steadily at the object towards which they had turned when he had ceased speaking, and then, after a decent pause, turned her eyes, as Carlton knew she would, towards him.
"He was telling her who I am," he thought, "and about the picture in the catalogue."
In a few moments she turned to her sister and spoke to her, pointing out at something in the scenery, and the same pantomime was repeated, and again with the third sister.
"Did you see those girls talking about you, Mr. Carlton?" Miss Morris asked, after they had left the car.
Carlton said it looked as though they were.
"Of course they were," said Miss Morris.
"That Englishman told the Princess Aline something about you, and then she told her sister, and she told the eldest one. It would be nice if they inherit their father's interest in painting, wouldn't it?"
"I would rather have it degenerate into an interest in painters myself," said Carlton.
Miss Morris discovered, after she had returned to her own car, that she had left the novel where she had been sitting, and Carlton sent Nolan back for it. It had slipped to the floor, and the fly-leaf upon which Carlton had sketched the Princess Aline was lying face down beside it. Nolan picked up the leaf, and saw the picture, and read the inscription below: "This is she. Do you wonder I travelled four thousand miles to see her?"
He handed the book to Miss Morris, and was backing out of the compartment, when she stopped him.
"There was a loose page in this, Nolan," she said. "It's gone; did you see it?"
"A loose page, miss?" said Nolan, with some concern. "Oh, yes, miss; I was going to tell you; there was a scrap of paper blew away when I was passing between the carriages. Was it something you wanted, miss?"
"Something I wanted!" exclaimed Miss Morris, in dismay.
Carlton laughed easily. "It is just as well I didn't sign it, after all," he said. "I don't want to proclaim my devotion to any Hungarian gypsy who happens to read English."
"You must draw me another, as a souvenir," Miss Morris said.
Nolan continued on through the length of the car until he had reached the one occupied by the Hohenwalds, where he waited on the platform until the English maidservant saw him and came to the door of the carriage.
"What hotel are your people going to stop at in Constantinople?" Nolan asked.
"The Grande-Bretagne, I think," she answered.
"That's right," said Nolan, approvingly. "That's the one we are going to. I thought I would come and tell you about it. And, by-the-way," he said, "here's a picture somebody's made of your Princess Aline. She dropped it, and I picked it up. You had better give it back to her. Well," he added, politely, "I'm glad you are coming to our hotel in Constantinople; it's pleasant having some one to talk to who can speak your own tongue."
The girl returned to the car, and left Nolan alone upon the platform. He exhaled a long breath of suppressed excitement, and then gazed around nervously upon the empty landscape.
"I fancy that's going to hurry things up a bit," he murmured, with an anxious smile; "he'd never get along at all if it wasn't for me."
For reasons possibly best understood by the German ambassador, the state of the Hohenwalds at Constantinople differed greatly from that which had obtained at the French capital. They no longer came and went as they wished, or wandered through the show-places of the city like ordinary tourists. There was, on the contrary, not only a change in their manner towards others, but there was an insistence on their part of a difference in the attitude of others towards themselves. This showed itself in the reserving of the half of the hotel for their use, and in the haughty bearing of the equerries, who appeared unexpectedly in magnificent uniforms. The visitors' book was covered with the autographs of all of the important people in the Turkish capital, and the Sultan's carriages stood constantly before the door of the hotel, awaiting their pleasure, until they became as familiar a sight as the street dogs, or as cabs in a hansom-cab rank.
And in following out the programme which had been laid down for her, the Princess Aline became even less accessible to Carlton than before, and he grew desperate and despondent.
"If the worst comes," he said to Miss Morris, "I shall tell Nolan to give an alarm of fire some night, and then I will run in and rescue her before they find out there is no fire. Or he might frighten the horses some day, and give me a chance to stop them. We might even wait until we reach Greece, and have her carried off by brigands, who would only give her up to me."
"There are no more brigands in Greece," said Miss Morris; "and besides, why do you suppose they would only give her up to you?"
"Because they would be imitation brigands," said Carlton, "and would be paid to give her up to no one else."
"Oh, you plan very well," scoffed Miss Morris, "but you don't DO anything."
Carlton was saved the necessity of doing anything that same morning, when the English captain in attendance on the Duke sent his card to Carlton's room. He came, he explained, to present the Prince's compliments, and would it be convenient for Mr. Carlton to meet the Duke that afternoon? Mr. Carlton suppressed an unseemly desire to shout, and said, after a moment's consideration, that it would. He then took the English captain down stairs to the smoking-room, and rewarded him for his agreeable message.
The Duke received Carlton in the afternoon, and greeted him most cordially, and with as much ease of manner as it is possible for a man to possess who has never enjoyed the benefits of meeting other men on an equal footing. He expressed his pleasure in knowing an artist with whose work he was so familiar, and congratulated himself on the happy accident which had brought them both to the same hotel.
"I have more than a natural interest in meeting you," said the Prince, "and for a reason which you may or may not know. I thought possibly you could help me somewhat. I have within the past few days come into the possession of two of your paintings; they are studies, rather, but to me they are even more desirable than the finished work; and I am not correct in saying that they have come to me exactly, but to my sister, the Princess Aline."
Carlton could not withhold a certain start of surprise. He had not expected that his gift would so soon have arrived, but his face showed only polite attention.
"The studies were delivered to us in London," continued the Duke. "They are of Ludwig the tragedian, and of the German Prime Minister, two most valuable works, and especially interesting to us. They came without any note or message which would inform us who had sent them, and when my people made inquiries, the dealer refused to tell them from whom they had come. He had been ordered to forward them to Grasse, but, on learning of our presence in London, sent them direct to our hotel there. Of course it is embarrassing to have so valuable a present from an anonymous friend, especially so for my sister, to whom they were addressed, and I thought that, besides the pleasure of meeting one of whose genius I am so warm an admirer, I might also learn something which would enable me to discover who our friend may be." He paused, but as Carlton said nothing, continued: "As it is now, I do not feel that I can accept the pictures; and yet I know no one to whom they can be returned, unless I send them to the dealer."
"It sounds very mysterious," said Carlton smiling; "and I am afraid I cannot help you. What work I did in Germany was sold in Berlin before I left, and in a year may have changed hands several times. The studies of which you speak are unimportant, and merely studies, and could pass from hand to hand without much record having been kept of them; but personally I am not able to give you any information which would assist you in tracing them."
"Yes," said the Duke. "Well, then, I shall keep them until I can learn more; and if we can learn nothing, I shall return them to the dealer."
Carlton met Miss Morris that afternoon in a state of great excitement. "It's come!" he cried—"it's come! I am to meet her this week. I have met her brother, and he has asked me to dine with them on Thursday night; that's the day before they leave for Athens; and he particularly mentioned that his sisters would be at the dinner, and that it would be a pleasure to present me. It seems that the eldest paints, and all of them love art for art's sake, as their father taught them to do; and, for all we know, he may make me court painter, and I shall spend the rest of my life at Grasse painting portraits of the Princess Aline, at the age of twenty-two, and at all future ages. And if he does give me a commission to paint her, I can tell you now in confidence that that picture will require more sittings than any other picture ever painted by man. Her hair will have turned white by the time it is finished, and the gown she started to pose in will have become forty years behind the fashion!"
On the morning following, Carlton and Mrs. Downs and her niece, with all the tourists in Constantinople, were placed in open carriages by their dragomans, and driven in a long procession to the Seraglio to see the Sultan's treasures. Those of them who had waited two weeks for this chance looked aggrieved at the more fortunate who had come at the eleventh hour on the last night's steamer, and seemed to think these latter had attained the privilege without sufficient effort. The ministers of the different legations—as is the harmless custom of such gentlemen—had impressed every one for whom they had obtained permission to see the treasures with the great importance of the service rendered, and had succeeded in making every one feel either especially honored or especially uncomfortable at having given them so much trouble. This sense of obligation, and the fact that the dragomans had assured the tourists that they were for the time being the guests of the Sultan, awed and depressed most of the visitors to such an extent that their manner in the long procession of carriages suggested a funeral cortege, with the Hohenwalds in front, escorted by Beys and Pashas, as chief mourners. The procession halted at the palace, and the guests of the Sultan were received by numerous effendis in single-button frock-coats and freshly ironed fezzes, who served them with glasses of water, and a huge bowl of some sweet stuff, of which every one was supposed to take a spoonful. There was at first a general fear among the Cook's tourists that there would not be enough of this to go round, which was succeeded by a greater anxiety lest they should be served twice. Some of the tourists put the sweet stuff in their mouths direct and licked the spoon, and others dropped it off the spoon into the glass of water, and stirred it about and sipped at it, and no one knew who had done the right thing, not even those who happened to have done it. Carlton and Miss Morris went out on to the terrace while this ceremony was going forward, and looked out over the great panorama of waters, with the Sea of Marmora on one side, the Golden Horn on the other, and the Bosporus at their feet. The sun was shining mildly, and the waters were stirred by great and little vessels; before them on the opposite bank rose the dark green cypresses which marked the grim cemetery of England's dead, and behind them were the great turtle-backed mosques and pencil-like minarets of the two cities, and close at hand the mosaic walls and beautiful gardens of Constantine.
"Your friends the Hohenwalds don't seem to know you this morning," she said.
"Oh yes; he spoke to me as we left the hotel," Carlton answered. "But they are on parade at present. There are a lot of their countrymen among the tourists."
"I feel rather sorry for them," Miss Morris said, looking at the group with an amused smile. "Etiquette cuts them off from so much innocent amusement. Now, you are a gentleman, and the Duke presumably is, and why should you not go over and say, 'Your Highness, I wish you would present me to your sister, whom I am to meet at dinner to-morrow night. I admire her very much,' and then you could point out the historical features to her, and show her where they have finished off a blue and green tiled wall with a rusty tin roof, and make pretty speeches to her. It wouldn't hurt her, and it would do you a lot of good. The simplest way is always the best way, it seems to me."
"Oh yes, of course," said Carlton. "Suppose he came over here and said: 'Carlton, I wish you would present me to your young American friend. I admire her very much,' I would probably say: 'Do you? Well, you will have to wait until she expresses some desire to meet you.' No; etiquette is all right in itself, only some people don't know its laws, and that is the one instance to my mind where ignorance of the law is no excuse."
Carlton left Miss Morris talking with the Secretary of the American Legation, and went to look for Mrs. Downs. When he returned he found that the young Secretary had apparently asked and obtained permission to present the Duke's equerries and some of his diplomatic confreres, who were standing now about her in an attentive semicircle, and pointing out the different palaces and points of interest. Carlton was somewhat disturbed at the sight, and reproached himself with not having presented any one to her before. He was sure now that she must have had a dull time of it; but he wished, nevertheless, that if she was to meet other men, the Secretary had allowed him to act as master of ceremonies.
"I suppose you know," that gentleman was saying as Carlton came up, "that when you pass by Abydos, on the way to Athens, you will see where Leander swam the Hellespont to meet Hero. That little white light-house is called Leander in honor of him. It makes rather an interesting contrast—does it not?—to think of that chap swimming along in the dark, and then to find that his monument to-day is a lighthouse, with revolving lamps and electric appliances, and with ocean tramps and bridges and men-of-war around it. We have improved in our mechanism since then," he said, with an air, "but I am afraid the men of to-day don't do that sort of thing for the women of to-day."
"Then it is the men who have deteriorated," said one of the equerries, bowing to Miss Morris; "it is certainly not the women."
The two Americans looked at Miss Morris to see how she received this, but she smiled good-naturedly.
"I know a man who did more than that for a woman," said Carlton, innocently. "He crossed an ocean and several countries to meet her, and he hasn't met her yet."
Miss Morris looked at him and laughed, in the safety that no one understood him but herself.
"But he ran no danger," she answered.
"He didn't, didn't he?" said Carlton, looking at her closely and laughing. "I think he was in very great danger all the time."
"Shocking!" said Miss Morris, reprovingly; "and in her very presence, too." She knitted her brows and frowned at him. "I really believe if you were in prison you would make pretty speeches to the jailer's daughter."
"Yes," said Carlton, boldly, "or even to a woman who was a prisoner herself."
"I don't know what you mean," she said, turning away from him to the others. "How far was it that Leander swam?" she asked.
The English captain pointed out two spots on either bank, and said that the shores of Abydos were a little over that distance apart.
"As far as that?" said Miss Morris. "How much he must have cared for her!" She turned to Carlton for an answer.
"I beg your pardon," he said. He was measuring the distance between the two points with his eyes.
"I said how much he must have cared for her! You wouldn't swim that far for a girl."
"For a girl!" laughed Carlton, quickly. "I was just thinking I would do it for fifty dollars."
The English captain gave a hasty glance at the distance he had pointed out, and then turned to Carlton. "I'll take you," he said, seriously. "I'll bet you twenty pounds you can't do it." There was an easy laugh at Carlton's expense, but he only shook his head and smiled.
"Leave him alone, captain," said the American Secretary. "It seems to me I remember a story of Mr. Carlton's swimming out from Navesink to meet an ocean liner. It was about three miles, and the ocean was rather rough, and when they slowed up he asked them if it was raining in London when they left. They thought he was mad."
"Is that true, Carlton?" asked the Englishman.
"Something like it," said the American, "except that I didn't ask them if it was raining in London. I asked them for a drink, and it was they who were mad. They thought I was drowning, and slowed up to lower a boat, and when they found out I was just swimming around they were naturally angry.
"Well, I'm glad you didn't bet with me," said the captain, with a relieved laugh.
That evening, as the Englishman was leaving the smoking-room, and after he had bidden Carlton good-night, he turned back and said: "I didn't like to ask you before those men this morning, but there was something about your swimming adventure I wanted to know: Did you get that drink?"
"I did," said Carlton—"in a bottle. They nearly broke my shoulder."
As Carlton came into the breakfast-room on the morning of the day he was to meet the Princess Aline at dinner, Miss Morris was there alone, and he sat down at the same table, opposite to her. She looked at him critically, and smiled with evident amusement.
"'To-day,'" she quoted, solemnly, "'the birthday of my life has come.'"
Carlton poured out his coffee, with a shake of his head, and frowned. "Oh, you can laugh," he said, "but I didn't sleep at all last night. I lay awake making speeches to her. I know they are going to put me between the wrong sisters," he complained, "or next to one of those old ladies-in-waiting, or whatever they are."
"How are you going to begin?" said Miss Morris. "Will you tell her you have followed her from London—or from New York, rather—that you are young Lochinvar, who came out of the West, and—"
"I don't know," said Carlton, meditatively, "just how I shall begin; but I know the curtain is going to rise promptly at eight o'clock—about the time the soup comes on, I think. I don't see how she can help but be impressed a little bit. It isn't every day a man hurries around the globe on account of a girl's photograph; and she IS beautiful, isn't she?"
Miss Morris nodded her head encouragingly.
"Do you know, sometimes," said Carlton, glancing over his shoulders to see if the waiters were out of hearing, "I fancy she has noticed me. Once or twice I have turned my head in her direction without meaning to, and found her looking—well, looking my way, at least. Don't you think that is a good sign?" he asked, eagerly.
"It depends on what you call a 'good sign,'" said Miss Morris, judicially. "It is a sign you're good to look at, if that's what you want. But you probably know that already, and it's nothing to your credit. It certainly isn't a sign that a person cares for you because she prefers to look at your profile rather than at what the dragomans are trying to show her."
Carlton drew himself up stiffly. "If you knew your ALICE better," he said, with severity, "you would understand that it is not polite to make personal remarks. I ask you, as my confidante, if you think she has noticed me, and you make fun of my looks! That's not the part of a confidante."
"Noticed you!" laughed Miss Morris, scornfully. "How could she help it? You are always in the way. You are at the door whenever they go out or come in, and when we are visiting mosques and palaces you are invariably looking at her instead of the tombs and things, with a wistful far-away look, as though you saw a vision. The first time you did it, after you had turned away I saw her feel to see if her hair was all right. You quite embarrassed her."
"I didn't—I don't!" stammered Carlton, indignantly. "I wouldn't be so rude. Oh, I see I'll have to get another confidante; you are most unsympathetic and unkind." But Miss Morris showed her sympathy later in the day, when Carlton needed it sorely; for the dinner towards which he had looked with such pleasurable anticipations and lover-like misgivings did not take place. The Sultan, so the equerry informed him, had, with Oriental unexpectedness, invited the Duke to dine that night at the Palace, and the Duke, much to his expressed regret, had been forced to accept what was in the nature of a command. He sent word by his equerry, however, that the dinner to Mr. Carlton was only a pleasure deferred, and that at Athens, where he understood Carlton was also going, he hoped to have the pleasure of entertaining him and making him known to his sisters.
"He is a selfish young egoist," said Carlton to Mrs. Downs. "As if I cared whether he was at the dinner or not! Why couldn't he have fixed it so I might have dined with his sisters alone? We would never have missed him. I'll never meet her now. I know it; I feel it. Fate is against me. Now I will have to follow them on to Athens, and something will turn up there to keep me away from her. You'll see; you'll see. I wonder where they go from Athens?"
The Hohenwalds departed the next morning, and as their party had engaged all the state-rooms in the little Italian steamer, Carlton was forced to wait over for the next. He was very gloomy over his disappointment, and Miss Morris did her best to amuse him. She and her aunt were never idle now, and spent the last few days of their stay in Constantinople in the bazars or in excursions up and down the river.
"These are my last days of freedom," Miss Morris said to him once, "and I mean to make the most of them. After this there will be no more travelling for me. And I love it so!" she added, wistfully.
Carlton made no comment, but he felt a certain contemptuous pity for the young man in America who had required such a sacrifice. "She is too nice a girl to let him know she is making a sacrifice," he thought, "or giving up anything for him, but SHE won't forget it." And Carlton again commended himself for not having asked any woman to make any sacrifices for him.
They left Constantinople for Athens one moonlight night, three days after the Hohenwalds had taken their departure, and as the evening and the air were warm, they remained upon the upper deck until the boat had entered the Dardanelles. There were few passengers, and Mrs. Downs went below early, leaving Miss Morris and Carlton hanging over the rail, and looking down upon a band of Hungarian gypsies, who were playing the weird music of their country on the deck beneath them. The low receding hills lay close on either hand, and ran back so sharply from the narrow waterway that they seemed to shut in the boat from the world beyond. The moonlight showed a little mud fort or a thatched cottage on the bank fantastically, as through a mist, and from time to time as they sped forward they saw the camp-fire of a sentry, and his shadow as he passed between it and them, or stopped to cover it with wood. The night was so still that they could hear the waves in the steamer's wake washing up over the stones on either shore, and the muffled beat of the engines echoed back from either side of the valley through which they passed. There was a great lantern hanging midway from the mast, and shining down upon the lower deck. It showed a group of Greeks, Turks, and Armenians, in strange costumes, sleeping, huddled together in picturesque confusion over the bare boards, or wide-awake and voluble, smoking and chatting together in happy company. The music of the tizanes rose in notes of passionate ecstasy and sharp, unexpected bursts of melody. It ceased and began again, as though the musicians were feeling their way, and then burst out once more into shrill defiance. It stirred Carlton with a strange turbulent unrest. From the banks the night wind brought soft odors of fresh earth and of heavy foliage.
"The music of different countries," Carlton said at last, "means many different things. But it seems to me that the music of Hungary is the music of love."
Miss Morris crossed her arms comfortably on the rail, and he heard her laugh softly. "Oh no, it is not," she said, undisturbed. "It is a passionate, gusty, heady sort of love, if you like, but it's no more like the real thing than burgundy is like clear, cold, good water. It's not the real thing at all."
"I beg your pardon," said Carlton, meekly. "Of course I don't know anything about it." He had been waked out of the spell which the night and the tizanes had placed upon him as completely as though some one had shaken him sharply by the shoulder. "I bow," he said, "to your superior knowledge. I know nothing about it."
"No; you are quite right. I don't believe you do know anything about it," said the girl, "or you wouldn't have made such a comparison."
"Do you know, Miss Morris," said Carlton, seriously, "that I believe I'm not able to care for a woman as other men do—at least as some men do; it's just lacking in me, and always will be lacking. It's like an ear for music; if you haven't got it, if it isn't born in you, you'll never have it. It's not a thing you can cultivate, and I feel that it's not only a misfortune, but a fault. Now I honestly believe that I care more for the Princess Aline, whom I have never met, than many other men could care for her if they knew her well; but what they feel would last, and I have doubts from past experience that what I feel would. I don't doubt it while it exists, but it never does exist long, and so I am afraid it is going to be with me to the end of the chapter." He paused for a moment, but the girl did not answer. "I am speaking in earnest now," he added, with a rueful laugh.
"I see you are," she replied, briefly. She seemed to be considering his condition as he had described it to her, and he did not interrupt her. From below them came the notes of the waltz the gypsies played. It was full of the undercurrent of sadness that a waltz should have, and filled out what Carlton said as the music from the orchestra in a theatre heightens the effect without interrupting the words of the actor on the stage.
"It is strange," said Miss Morris. "I should have thought you were a man who would care very much and in just the right way. But I don't believe really—I'm sorry, but I don't believe you do know what love means at all."
"Oh, it isn't as bad as that," said Carlton. "I think I know what it is, and what it means to other people, but I can't feel it myself. The best idea I ever got of it—the thing that made it clear to me—was a line in a play. It seemed to express it better than any of the love-poems I ever read. It was in Shenandoah."
Miss Morris laughed.
"I beg your pardon," said Carlton.
"I beg yours," she said. "It was only the incongruity that struck me. It seemed so odd to be quoting Shenandoah here in the Dardanelles, with these queer people below us and ancient Troy on one hand—it took me by surprise, that's all. Please go on. What was it impressed you?"
"Well, the hero in the play," said Carlton, "is an officer in the Northern army, and he is lying wounded in a house near the Shenandoah Valley. The girl he loves lives in this house, and is nursing him; but she doesn't love him, because she sympathizes with the South. At least she says she doesn't love him. Both armies are forming in the valley below to begin the battle, and he sees his own regiment hurrying past to join them, So he gets up and staggers out on the stage, which is set to show the yard in front of the farm-house, and he calls for his horse to follow his men. Then the girl runs out and begs him not to go; and he asks why, what does it matter to her whether he goes or not? And she says, 'But I cannot let you go; you may be killed.' And he says again, 'What is that to you?' And she says: 'It is everything to me. I love you.' And he makes a grab at her with his wounded arm, and at that instant both armies open fire in the valley below, and the whole earth and sky seem to open and shut, and the house rocks. The girl rushes at him and crowds up against his breast, and cries: 'What is that? Oh, what is that?' and he holds her tight to him and laughs, and says: 'THAT? That's only a battle—you love me.'"
Miss Morris looked steadfastly over the side of the boat at the waters rushing by beneath, smiling to herself. Then she turned her face towards Carlton, and nodded her head at him. "I think," she said, dryly, "that you have a fair idea of what it means; a rough working-plan at least—enough to begin on."
"I said that I knew what it meant to others. I am complaining that I cannot feel it myself."
"That will come in time, no doubt," she said, encouragingly, with the air of a connoisseur; "and let me tell you," she added, "that it will be all the better for the woman that you have doubted yourself so long."
"You think so?" said Carlton, eagerly.
Miss Morris laughed at his earnestness, and left him to go below to ask her aunt to join them, but Mrs. Downs preferred to read in the saloon, and Miss Morris returned alone. She had taken off her Eton jacket and pulled on a heavy blue football sweater, and over this a reefer. The jersey clung to her and showed the lines of her figure, and emphasized the freedom and grace with which she made every movement. She looked, as she walked at his side with her hands in the pockets of her coat and with a flat sailor hat on her head, like a tall, handsome boy; but when they stopped and stood where the light fell full on her hair and the exquisite coloring of her skin, Carlton thought her face had never seemed so delicate or fair as it did then, rising from the collar of the rough jersey, and contrasted with the hat and coat of a man's attire. They paced the deck for an hour later, until every one else had left it, and at midnight were still loath to give up the beautiful night and the charm of their strange surroundings. There were long silent places in their talk, during which Carlton tramped beside her with his head half turned, looking at her and noting with an artist's eye the free light step, the erect carriage, and the unconscious beauty of her face. The captain of the steamer joined them after midnight, and falling into step, pointed out to Miss Morris where great cities had stood, where others lay buried, and where beyond the hills were the almost inaccessible monasteries of the Greek Church. The moonlight turned the banks into shadowy substances, in which the ghosts of former days seemed to make a part; and spurred by the young girl's interest, the Italian, to entertain her, called up all the legends of mythology and the stories of Roman explorers and Turkish conquerors.
"I turn in now," he said, after Miss Morris had left them. "A most charming young lady. Is it not so?" he added, waving his cigarette in a gesture which expressed the ineffectiveness of the adjective.
"Yes, very," said Carlton. "Good-night, sir."
He turned, and leaned with both elbows on the rail, and looked out at the misty banks, puffing at his cigar. Then he dropped it hissing into the water, and, stifling a yawn, looked up and down the length of the deserted deck. It seemed particularly bare and empty.
"What a pity she's engaged!" Carlton said. "She loses so much by it."
They steamed slowly into the harbor of the Piraeus at an early hour the next morning, with a flotilla of small boats filled with shrieking porters and hotel-runners at the sides. These men tossed their painters to the crew, and crawled up them like a boarding crew of pirates, running wildly about the deck, and laying violent hands on any piece of baggage they saw unclaimed. The passengers' trunks had been thrown out in a heap on the deck, and Nolan and Carlton were clambering over them, looking for their own effects, while Miss Morris stood below, as far out of the confusion as she could place herself, and pointed out the different pieces that belonged to her. As she stood there one of the hotel-runners, a burly, greasy Levantine in pursuit of a possible victim, shouldered her intentionally and roughly out of the way. He shoved her so sharply that she lost her balance and fell back against the rail. Carlton saw what had happened, and made a flying leap from the top of the pile of trunks, landing beside her, and in time to seize the escaping offender by the collar. He jerked him back off his feet.
"How dare you—" he began.
But he did not finish. He felt the tips of Miss Morris's fingers laid upon his shoulder, and her voice saying, in an annoyed tone: "Don't; please don't." And, to his surprise, his fingers lost their grip on the man's shirt, his arms dropped at his side, and his blood began to flow calmly again through his veins. Carlton was aware that he had a very quick temper. He was always engaging in street rows, as he called them, with men who he thought had imposed on him or on some one else, and though he was always ashamed of himself later, his temper had never been satisfied without a blow or an apology. Women had also touched him before, and possibly with a greater familiarity; but these had stirred him, not quieted him; and men who had laid detaining hands on him had had them beaten down for their pains. But this girl had merely touched him gently, and he had been made helpless. It was most perplexing; and while the custom-house officials were passing his luggage, he found himself rubbing his arm curiously, as though it were numb, and looking down at it with an amused smile. He did not comment on the incident, although he smiled at the recollection of his prompt obedience several times during the day. But as he was stepping into the cab to drive to Athens, he saw the offending ruffian pass, dripping with water, and muttering bitter curses. When he saw Carlton he disappeared instantly in the crowd. Carlton stepped over to where Nolan sat beside the driver on the box. "Nolan," he said, in a low voice, "isn't that the fellow who—"
"Yes, sir," said Nolan, touching his hat gravely. "He was pulling a valise one way, and the gentleman that owned it, sir, was pulling it the other, and the gentleman let go sudden, and the Italian went over backwards off the pier."
Carlton smiled grimly with secret satisfaction.
"Nolan," he said, "you're not telling the truth. You did it yourself." Nolan touched his cap and coughed consciously. There had been no detaining fingers on Nolan's arm.