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- Graustark - 10/57 -
give us these early morning hours. I am sure we cannot trouble you much longer."
He expostulated gallantly and delightedly, and then hurried forth to call a cab. At eight o'clock he breakfasted with them, his infatuation growing deeper and stronger as he sat for the hour beneath the spell of those eyes, the glorious face, the sweet, imperial air that was a part of her, strange and unaffected. As they were leaving the dining-room he asked her if she would not drive with him.
His ardent gallantry met with a surprising rebuke. The conversation up to that moment had been bright and cheery, her face had been the constant reflector of his own good spirits, and he had every reason in the world to feel that his suggestion would be received with pleasure. It was a shock to him, therefore, to see the friendly smile fade from her eyes and a disdainful gleam succeed it. Her voice, a moment ago sweet and affable, changed its tone instantly to one so proud and arrogant that he could scarcely believe his ears.
"I shall be engaged during the entire day, Mr. Lorry," she said, slowly, looking him fairly in the eyes with cruel positiveness. Those eyes of his were wide with surprise and the glowing gleam of injured pride. His lips closed tightly; little red spots flew to his cheeks and then disappeared, leaving his face white and cold; his heart throbbed painfully with the mingled emotions of shame and anger. For a moment he dared not speak.
"I have reason to feel thankful that you are to be engaged," he said at last, calmly, without taking his eyes from hers. "I am forced to believe, much to my regret, that I have offended when I intended to please. You will pardon my temerity."
There was no mistaking the resentment in his voice or the glitter in his eyes. Impulsively her little hand was stretched forth, falling upon his arm, while into her eyes came again the soft glow and to her lips the most pathetic, appealing smile, the forerunner of a pretty plea for forgiveness. The change startled and puzzled him more than ever. In one moment she was unreasonably rude and imperious, in the next gracious and imploring.
"Forgive me," she cried, the blue eyes battling bravely against the steel in the grey ones above. "I was so uncivil! Perhaps I cannot make you understand why I spoke as I did, but, let me say, I richly deserved the rebuke. Pray forgive me and forget that I have been disagreeable. Do not ask me to tell you why I was so rude to you just now, but overlook my unkind treatment of your invitation. Please, Mr. Lorry, I beg of you--I beg for the first time in my life. You have been so good to me; be good to me still."
His wrath melted away like snow before the sunshine. How could he resist such an appeal? "I beg for the first time in my life," whirled in his brain. What did she mean by that?
"I absolve the penitent," he said, gravely.
"I thank you. You are still my ideal American--courteous, bold and gentle. I do not wonder that Americans can be masterful men. And now I thank you for your invitation, and ask you to let me withdraw my implied refusal. If you will take me for the drive, I shall be delighted and more than grateful."
"You make me happy again," he said, softly, as they drew near the elder members of the party, who had paused to wait for them. "I shall ask your uncle and aunt to accompany us."
"Uncle Caspar will be busy all day, but I am sure my aunt will be charmed. Aunt Yvonne, Mr. Lorry has asked us to drive with him over the city, and I have accepted for you. When are we to start, Mr. Lorry?"
Mr. and Mrs. Guggenslocker stared in a bewildered sort of manner at their niece. Then Aunt Yvonne turned questioning eyes toward her husband, who promptly bowed low before the tall American and said:
"Your kind offices shall never be forgotten, sir. When are the ladies to be ready?"
Lorry was weighing in his mind the advisability of asking them to dine in the evening with his mother, but two objections presented themselves readily. First, he was afraid of this perverse maid; second, he had not seen his mother. In fact, he did not know that she was in town.
"At two o'clock, I fancy. That will give us the afternoon. You leave at nine to-night, do you not?"
"Yes. And will you dine with us this evening?" Her invitation was so unexpected, in view of all that had happened, that he looked askance. "Ach, you must not treat my invitation as I did yours!" she cried, merrily, although he could detect the blush that returns with the recollection of a reprimand. "You should profit by what I have been taught." The girl abruptly threw her arm about her aunt and cried, as she drew away in the direction of her room: "At two, then, and at dinner this evening. I bid you good morning, Mr. Lorry."
The young man, delighted with the turn of affairs, but dismayed by what seemed a summary dismissal, bowed low. He waited until the strange trio entered the elevator and then sauntered downstairs, his hands in his pockets, his heart as light as air. Unconsciously he jingled the coins. A broad smile came over his face as he drew forth a certain piece. Holding it between his thumb and forefinger he said:
"You are what it cost her to learn my name, are you? Well, my good fellow, you may be very small, but you bought something that looks better than Guggenslocker on a hotel register. Your mistress is an odd bit of humanity, a most whimsical bit, I must say. First, she's no and then she's yes. You're lucky, my coin, to have fallen into the custody of one who will not give you over to the mercy of strangers for the sake of a whim. You are now retired on a pension, well deserved after valiant service in the cause of a most capricious queen."
In an hour he was at home and relating to his mother the story of his wanderings, neglecting, for reasons best known to himself, the events which occurred after Denver had been left behind, except for a casual allusion to "a party of foreigners." At one o'clock, faultlessly attired, he descended to the brougham, telling Mrs. Lorry that he had invited some strangers to see the city. On the way downtown he remembered that he was in business, the law business--and that it would be well to drop in and let his uncle know he was in the city. On second thought, however, he concluded it was too near two o'clock to waste any time on business, so the office did not know that he was in town until the next day, and then to no great extent.
For several hours he reveled in her society, sitting beside her in that roomy brougham, Aunt Yvonne opposite, explaining to her the many places of interest as they passed. They entered the Capitol; they saw the White House, and, as they were driving back to the hotel, passed the President of the United States.
Miss Guggenslocker, when informed that the President's carriage was approaching, relaxed gracefully from the stately reserve that had been puzzling him, and revealed an eager curiosity. Her eyes fastened themselves upon the President, Lorry finding entertainment in the changes that came over her unconscious face. Instead of noting the veneration he had expected, he was astonished and somewhat provoked to see a slight curl of disgust at the corners of her mouth, a pronounced disappointment in her eyes. Her face expressed ridicule, pure and simple, and, he was shocked to observe, the exposure was unconscious, therefore sincere.
"You do not like our ruler?" he said, as the carriage whirled by. He was returning his hat to his head as he spoke.
"I cannot say. I do not know him," she replied, a tinge of sarcasm in her voice. "You Americans have one consolation; when you tire of a ruler you can put another in his place. Is it not wise to do so quite often?"
"I don't think wise is the word. Expedient is better. I am to infer that you have no politics."
"One house has ruled our land for centuries. Since I came to your land I have not once seen a man wave his hat with mad adulation and cry from his heart: 'Long live the President!' For centuries, in my country, every child has been born with the words: 'Long live the Prince!' in his heart, and he learns to say them next after the dear parental words are mastered. 'Long live the Prince!' 'Long live the Princess!' are tributes of love and honor that greet our rulers from birth to death. We are not fickle, and we have no politics."
"Do your rulers hear tin horns, brass bands, campaign yells, firecrackers and stump speeches every four years? Do they know what it means to be the voluntary choice of a whole nation? Do they know what it is to rule because they have won the right and not because they were born to it? Has there ever been a homage-surfeited ruler in your land who has known the joy that comes with the knowledge that he has earned the right to be cheered from one end of the country to the other? Is there not a difference between your hereditary 'Long live the Prince' and our wild, enthusiastic, spontaneous 'Hurrah for Cleveland!' Miss Guggenslocker? All men are equal at the beginning in our land. The man who wins the highest gift that can be bestowed by seventy millions of people is the man who had brains and not title as a birthright." He was a bit exasperated.
"There! I have displeased you again. You must pardon my antiquated ideas. We, as true and loyal subjects of a good sovereign, cannot forget that our rulers are born, not made. Perhaps we are afflicted at times with brainless monarchs and are to be pitied. You are generous in your selection of potentates, be generous, then, with me, a benighted royalist, who craves leniency of one who may some day be President of the United States."
"Granted, without discussion. As possible, though not probable, President of the United States, I am magnanimous to an unfortunate who can never hope to be princess, no matter how well she might grace the gilded throne."
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