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- Beverly of Graustark - 2/51 -
but graceful, an absolutely healthy young person whose beauty knew well how to take care of itself. Being quite heart-whole and fancy-free, she slept well, ate well, and enjoyed every minute of life. In her blood ran the warm, eager impulses of the south; hereditary love of case and luxury displayed itself in every emotion; the perfectly normal demand upon men's admiration was as characteristic in her as it is in any daughter of the land whose women are born to expect chivalry and homage.
A couple of years in a New York "finishing school" for young ladies had served greatly to modify Miss Calhoun's colloquial charms. Many of her delightful "way down south" phrases and mannerisms were blighted by the cold, unromantic atmosphere of a seminary conducted by two ladies from Boston who were too old to marry, too penurious to love and too prim to think that other women might care to do both. There were times, however,--if she were excited or enthusiastic,--when pretty Beverly so far forgot her training as to break forth with a very attractive "yo' all," "suah 'nough," or "go 'long naow." And when the bands played "Dixie" she was not afraid to stand up and wave her handkerchief. The northerner who happened to be with her on such occasions usually found himself doing likewise before he could escape the infection.
Miss Calhoun's face was one that painters coveted deep down in their artistic souls. It never knew a dull instant; there was expression in every lineament, in every look; life, genuine life, dwelt in the mobile countenance that turned the head of every man and woman who looked upon it. Her hair was dark-brown and abundant; her eyes were a deep gray and looked eagerly from between long lashes of black; her lips were red and ever willing to smile or turn plaintive as occasion required; her brow was broad and fair, and her frown was as dangerous as a smile. As to her age, if the major admitted, somewhat indiscreetly, that all his children were old enough to vote, her mother, with the reluctance born in women, confessed that she was past twenty, so a year or two either way will determine Miss Beverly's age, so far as the telling of this story is concerned. Her eldest brother--Keith Calhoun (the one with the congressional heritage)--thought she was too young to marry, while her second brother, Dan, held that she soon would be too old to attract men with matrimonial intentions. Lucy, the only sister, having been happily wedded for ten years, advised her not to think of marriage until she was old enough to know her own mind.
Toward the close of one of the most brilliant seasons the Capital had ever known, less than a fortnight before Congress was to adjourn, the wife of Grenfall Lorry received the news which spread gloomy disappointment over the entire social realm. A dozen receptions, teas and balls were destined to lose their richest attraction, and hostesses were in despair. The princess had been called to Graustark.
Beverly Calhoun was miserably unhappy. She had heard the story of Gabriel's escape and the consequent probability of a conflict with Axphain. It did not require a great stretch of imagination to convince her that the Lorrys were hurrying off to scenes of intrigue, strife and bloodshed, and that not only Graustark but its princess was in jeopardy.
Miss Calhoun's most cherished hopes faded with the announcement that trouble, not pleasure, called Yetive to Edelweiss. It had been their plan that Beverly should spend the delightful summer months in Graustark, a guest at the royal palace. The original arrangements of the Lorrys were hopelessly disturbed by the late news from Count Halfont. They were obliged to leave Washington two months earlier than they intended, and they could not take Beverly Calhoun into danger-ridden Graustark. The contemplated visit to St. Petersburg and other pleasures had to be abandoned, and they were in tears.
Yetive's maids were packing the trunks, and Lorry's servants were in a wild state of haste preparing for the departure on Saturday's ship. On Friday afternoon, Beverly was naturally where she could do the most good and be of the least help--at the Lorrys'. Self-confessedly, she delayed the preparations. Respectful maidservants and respectful menservants came often to the princess's boudoir to ask questions, and Beverly just as frequently made tearful resolutions to leave the household in peace--if such a hullaballoo could be called peace. Callers came by the dozen, but Yetive would see no one. Letters, telegrams and telephone calls almost swamped her secretary; the footman and the butler fairly gasped under the strain of excitement. Through it all the two friends sat despondent and alone in the drear room that once had been the abode of pure delight. Grenfall Lorry was off in town closing up all matters of business that could be despatched at once. The princess and her industrious retinue were to take the evening express for New York and the next day would find them at sea.
"I know I shall cry all summer," vowed Miss Calhoun, with conviction in her eyes. "It's just too awful for anything." She was lying back among the cushions of the divan and her hat was the picture of cruel neglect. For three solid hours she had stubbornly withstood Yetive's appeals to remove her hat, insisting that she could not trust herself to stay more than a minute or two." It seems to me, Yetive, that your jailers must be very incompetent or they wouldn't have let loose all this trouble upon you," she complained.
"Prince Gabriel is the very essence of trouble," confessed Yetive, plaintively." He was born to annoy people, just like the evil prince in the fairy tales."
"I wish we had him over here," the American girl answered stoutly. "He wouldn't be such a trouble I'm sure. We don't let small troubles worry us very long, you know."
"But he's dreadfully important over there, Beverly; that's the difficult part of it," said Yetive, solemnly." You see, he is a condemned murderer."
"Then, you ought to hang him or electrocute him or whatever it is that you do to murderers over there," promptly spoke Beverly.
"But, dear, you don't understand. He won't permit us either to hang or to electrocute him, my dear. The situation is precisely the reverse, if he is correctly quoted by my uncle. When Uncle Caspar sent an envoy to inform Dawsbergen respectfully that Graustark would hold it personally responsible if Gabriel were not surrendered, Gabriel himself replied: 'Graustark be hanged!'"
"How rude of him, especially when your uncle was so courteous about it. He must be a very disagreeable person," announced Miss Calhoun.
"I am sure you wouldn't like him," said the princess. "His brother, who has been driven from the throne--and from the capital, in fact--is quite different. I have not seen him, but my ministers regard him as a splendid young man."
"Oh, how I hope he may go back with his army and annihilate that old Gabriel!" cried Beverly, frowning fiercely.
"Alas," sighed the princess, "he hasn't an army, and besides he is finding it extremely difficult to keep from being annihilated himself. The army has gone over to Prince Gabriel."
"Pooh!" scoffed Miss Calhoun, who was thinking of the enormous armies the United States can produce at a day's notice. "What good is a ridiculous little army like his, anyway? A battalion from Fort Thomas could beat it to--"
"Don't boast, dear," interrupted Yetive, with a wan smile. "Dawsbergen has a standing army of ten thousand excellent soldiers. With the war reserves she has twice the available force I can produce."
"But your men are so brave," cried Beverly, who had heard their praises sung.
"True, God bless them; but you forget that we must attack Gabriel in his own territory. To recapture him means a perilous expedition into the mountains of Dawsbergen, and I am sorely afraid. Oh, dear, I hope he'll surrender peaceably!"
"And go back to jail for life?" cried Miss Calhoun. "It's a good deal to expect of him, dear. I fancy it's much better fun kicking up a rumpus on the outside than it is kicking one's toes off against an obdurate stone wall from the inside. You can't blame him for fighting a bit."
"No--I suppose not," agreed the princess, miserably. "Gren is actually happy over the miserable affair, Beverly. He is full of enthusiasm and positively aching to be in Graustark--right in the thick of it all. To hear him talk, one would think that Prince Gabriel has no show at all. He kept me up till four o'clock this morning telling me that Dawsbergen didn't know what kind of a snag it was going up against. I have a vague idea what he means by that; his manner did not leave much room for doubt. He also said that we would jolt Dawsbergen off the map. It sounds encouraging, at least, doesn't it?"
"It sounds very funny for you to say those things," admitted Beverly, "even though they come secondhand. You were not cut out for slang."
"Why, I'm sure they are all good English words," remonstrated Yetive. "Oh, dear, I wonder what they are doing in Graustark this very instant. Are they fighting or--"
"No; they are merely talking. Don't you know, dear, that there is never a fight until both sides have talked themselves out of breath? We shall have six months of talk and a week or two of fight, just as they always do nowadays."
"Oh, you Americans have such a comfortable way of looking at things," cried the princess. "Don't you ever see the serious side of life?"
"My dear, the American always lets the other fellow see the serious side of life," said Beverly.
"You wouldn't be so optimistic if a country much bigger and more powerful than America happened to be the other fellow."
"It did sound frightfully boastful, didn't it? It's the way we've been brought up, I reckon,--even we southerners who know what it is to be whipped. The idea of a girl like me talking about war and trouble and all that! It's absurd, isn't it?"
"Nevertheless, I wish I could see things through those dear gray eyes of yours. Oh, how I'd like to have you with me through all the months that are to come. You would be such a help to me--such a joy. Nothing would seem so hard if you were there to make me see things through your brave American eyes." The princess put her arms about Beverly's neck and drew her close.
"But Mr. Lorry possesses an excellent pair of American eyes," protested Miss Beverly, loyally and very happily.
"I know, dear, but they are a man's eyes. Somehow, there is a difference, you know. I wouldn't dare cry when he was looking, but I could boo-hoo all day if you were there to comfort me. He thinks I am very brave--and I'm not," she confessed, dismally.
"Oh, I'm an awful coward," explained Beverly, consolingly. "I think you
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