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- Beverly of Graustark - 3/51 -
are the bravest girl in all the world," she added. "Don't you remember what you did at--" and then she recalled the stories that had come from Graustark ahead of the bridal party two years before. Yetive was finally obliged to place her hand on the enthusiastic visitor's lips.
"Peace," she cried, blushing. "You make me feel like a--a--what is it you call her--a dime-novel heroine?"
"A yellow-back girl? Never!" exclaimed Beverly, severely.
Visitors of importance in administration circles came at this moment and the princess could not refuse to see them. Beverly Calhoun reluctantly departed, but not until after giving a promise to accompany the Lorrys to the railway station.
* * * * *
The trunks had gone to be checked, and the household was quieter than it had been in many days. There was an air of depression about the place that had its inception in the room upstairs where sober-faced Halkins served dinner for a not over-talkative young couple.
"It will be all right, dearest," said Lorry, divining his wife's thoughts as she sat staring rather soberly straight ahead of her, "Just as soon as we get to Edelweiss, the whole affair will look so simple that we can laugh at the fears of to-day. You see, we are a long way off just now."
"I am only afraid of what may happen before we get there, Gren," she said, simply. He leaned over and kissed her hand, smiling at the emphasis she unconsciously placed on the pronoun.
Beverly Calhoun was announced just before coffee was served, and a moment later was in the room. She stopped just inside the door, clicked her little heels together and gravely brought her hand to "salute." Her eyes were sparkling and her lips trembled with suppressed excitement.
"I think I can report to you in Edelweiss next month, general," she announced, with soldierly dignity. Her hearers stared at the picturesque recruit, and Halkins so far forgot himself as to drop Mr. Lorry's lump of sugar upon the table instead of into the cup.
"Explain yourself, sergeant!" finally fell from Lorry's lips. The eyes of the princess were beginning to take on a rapturous glow.
"May I have a cup of coffee, please, sir? I've been so excited I couldn't eat a mouthful at home." She gracefully slid into the chair Halkins offered, and broke into an ecstatic giggle that would have resulted in a court-martial had she been serving any commander but Love.
With a plenteous supply of Southern idioms she succeeded in making them understand that the major had promised to let her visit friends in the legation at St. Petersburg in April a month or so after the departure of the Lorrys.
"He wanted to know where I'd rather spend the Spring--Washin'ton or Lexin'ton, and I told him St. Petersburg. We had a terrific discussion and neither of us ate a speck at dinner. Mamma said it would be all right for me to go to St. Petersburg if Aunt Josephine was still of a mind to go, too. You see, Auntie was scared almost out of her boots when she heard there was prospect of war in Graustark, just as though a tiny little war like that could make any difference away up in Russia--hundreds of thousands of miles away--" (with a scornful wave of the hand)--"and then I just made Auntie say she'd go to St. Petersburg in April--a whole month sooner than she expected to go in the first place--and--"
"You dear, dear Beverly!" cried Yetive, rushing joyously around the table to clasp her in her arms.
"And St. Petersburg really isn't a hundred thousand miles from Edelweiss," cried Beverly, gaily.
"It's much less than that," said Lorry, smiling, "But you surely don't expect to come to Edelweiss if we are fighting. We couldn't think of letting you do that, you know. Your mother would never--"
"My mother wasn't afraid of a much bigger war than yours can ever hope to be," cried Beverly, resentfully. "You can't stop me if I choose to visit Graustark."
"Does your father know that you contemplate such a trip?" asked Lorry, returning her handclasp and looking doubtfully into the swimming blue eyes of his wife.
"No, he doesn't," admitted Beverly, a trifle aggressively.
"He could stop you, you know," he suggested. Yetive was discreetly silent.
"But he won't know anything about it," cried Beverly triumphantly.
"I could tell him, you know," said Lorry.
"No, you _couldn't_ do anything so mean as that," announced Beverly. "You're not that sort."
ON THE ROAD FROM BALAK
A ponderous coach lumbered slowly, almost painfully, along the narrow road that skirted the base of a mountain. It was drawn by four horses, and upon the seat sat two rough, unkempt Russians, one holding the reins, the other lying back in a lazy doze. The month was June and all the world seemed soft and sweet and joyous. To the right flowed a turbulent mountain stream, boiling savagely with the alien waters of the flood season. Ahead of the creaking coach rode four horsemen, all heavily armed; another quartette followed some distance in the rear. At the side of the coach an officer of the Russian mounted police was riding easily, jangling his accoutrements with a vigor that disheartened at least one occupant of the vehicle. The windows of the coach doors were lowered, permitting the fresh mountain air to caress fondly the face of the young woman who tried to find comfort in one of the broad seats. Since early morn she had struggled with the hardships of that seat, and the late afternoon found her very much out of patience. The opposite seat was the resting place of a substantial colored woman and a stupendous pile of bags and boxes. The boxes were continually toppling over and the bags were forever getting under the feet of the once placid servant, whose face, quite luckily, was much too black to reflect the anger she was able, otherwise, through years of practice, to conceal.
"How much farther have we to go, lieutenant?" asked the girl on the rear seat, plaintively, even humbly. The man was very deliberate with his English. He had been recommended to her as the best linguist in the service at Radovitch, and he had a reputation to sustain.
"It another hour is but yet," he managed to inform her, with a confident smile.
"Oh, dear," she sighed, "a whole hour of this!"
"We soon be dar, Miss Bev'ly; jes' yo' mak' up yo' mine to res' easy-like, an' we--" but the faithful old colored woman's advice was lost in the wrathful exclamation that accompanied another dislodgment of bags and boxes. The wheels of the coach had dropped suddenly into a deep rut. Aunt Fanny's growls were scarcely more potent than poor Miss Beverly's moans.
"It is getting worse and worse," exclaimed Aunt Fanny's mistress, petulantly. "I'm black and blue from head to foot, aren't you, Aunt Fanny?"
"Ah cain' say as to de blue, Miss Bev'ly. Hit's a mos' monstrous bad road, sho 'nough. Stay up dar, will yo'!" she concluded, jamming a bag into an upper corner.
Miss Calhoun, tourist extraordinary, again consulted the linguist in the saddle. She knew at the outset that the quest would be hopeless, but she could think of no better way to pass the next hour then to extract a mite of information from the officer.
"Now for a good old chat," she said, beaming a smile upon the grizzled Russian. "Is there a decent hotel in the village?" she asked.
They were on the edge of the village before she succeeded in finding out all that she could, and it was not a great deal, either. She learned that the town of Balak was in Axphain, scarcely a mile from the Graustark line. There was an eating and sleeping house on the main street, and the population of the place did not exceed three hundred.
When Miss Beverly awoke the next morning, sore and distressed, she looked back upon the night with a horror that sleep had been kind enough to interrupt only at intervals. The wretched hostelry lived long in her secret catalogue of terrors. Her bed was not a bed; it was a torture. The room, the table, the--but it was all too odious for description. Fatigue was her only friend in that miserable hole. Aunt Fanny had slept on the floor near her mistress's cot, and it was the good old colored woman's grumbling that awoke Beverly. The sun was climbing up the mountains in the east, and there was an air of general activity about the place. Beverly's watch told her that it was past eight o'clock.
"Good gracious!" she exclaimed. "It's nearly noon, Aunt Fanny. Hurry along here and get me up. We must leave this abominable place in ten minutes." She was up and racing about excitedly.
"Befo' breakfas'?" demanded Aunt Fanny weakly.
"Goodness, Aunt Fanny, is that all you think about?"
"Well, honey, yo' all be thinkin' moughty serious 'bout breakfas' 'long to'ahds 'leben o'clock. Dat li'l tummy o' yourn 'll be pow'ful mad 'cause yo' didn'--"
"Very well, Aunt Fanny, you can run along and have the woman put up a breakfast for us and we'll eat it on the road. I positively refuse to eat another mouthful in that awful dining-room. I'll be down in ten minutes."
She was down in less. Sleep, no matter how hard-earned, had revived her spirits materially. She pronounced herself ready for anything; there was a wholesome disdain for the rigors of the coming ride through the mountains in the way she gave orders for the start. The Russian officer met her just outside the entrance to the inn. He was less English than ever, but he eventually gave her to understand that he had secured
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