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- Graustark - 40/57 -


could scarcely discern the shape of the carriage, although they could touch its side with their hands.

A soldier stood in the shelter of the vehicle and opened the door for the American.

"Hurry! Get in!" exclaimed Quinnox.

"I wish to know if this is liable to get her into trouble," demanded Lorry, pausing with one foot on the steps.

"Get in!" commanded the soldier who was holding the door, pushing him forward uneasily. He floundered into the carriage where all was dry and clean. In his hand he still carried the keys and the lantern, the slide of which he had closed before leaving the prison yard. He could not see, but he knew that the trappings of the vehicle were superior. Outside he heard the soldier, who was preparing to enter, say:

"This carriage travels on most urgent business for Her Royal Highness, captain. It is not to be stopped."

A moment later he was inside and the door slammed. The carriage rocked as Quinnox swung up beside the driver.

"You may as well be comfortable," said Lorry's companion, as he sat rigid and restless. "We have a long and rough ride before us."

XIX

THE SOLDIER

Off went the carriage with a dash, the rumbles of its wheels joining in the grewsome roar of the elements. For some time the two sat speechless, side by side. Outside the thunder rolled, the rain swirled and hissed, the wind howled and all the horrors of nature seemed crowded into the blackness of that thrilling night. Lorry wondered vaguely whither they were going, why he had seen no flashes of lightning, if he should ever see her again. His mind was busy with a thousand thoughts and queries.

"Where are we going?" he asked, after they had traveled half a mile or so.

"To a place of safety," came the reply from the darkness beside him.

"Thanks," he said, drily. "By the way, don't you have any lightning in this part of the world? I haven't seen a flash to-night."

"It is very rare," came the brief reply.

"Devilish uncommunicative," thought Lorry.

After a moment he asked: "How far do we travel tonight?"

"A number of miles."

"Then I'm going to take off this wet coat. It weighs a ton. Won't you remove yours?" He jerked off the big rain coat and threw it across to the opposite seat, with the keys and the lantern. There was a moment's hesitation on the part of his companion, and then a second wet coat followed the first. Their rain helmets were also tossed aside. "Makes a fellow feel more comfortable."

"This has been too easy to seem like an escape," went on Lorry, looking back reflectively over the surprises of the night. "Maybe I am dreaming. Pinch me."

A finger and a thumb came together on the fleshy part of his arm, causing him to start, first in amazement, then in pain. He had not expected his reserved guardian to obey the command literally.

"I am awake, thanks," he laughed, and the hand dropped from his arm.

After this there was a longer silence than at any time before. The soldier drew himself into the corner of the seat, an action which repelled further discussion, it seemed to Lorry, so he leaned back in the opposite corner and allowed his mind to wander far from the interior of that black, stuffy carriage. Where was he going? When was he to leave Graustark? Was he to see her soon?

Soon the carriage left the smooth streets of Edelweiss and he could tell, by the jolting and careening, that they were in the country, racing over a rough, rocky road. It reminded him of an overland trip he had taken in West Virginia some months before, with the fairest girl in all the world as his companion. Now he was riding in her carriage, but with a surly, untalkative soldier of the guard. The more he allowed his thoughts to revel in the American ride and its delights, the more uncontrollable became his desire to see the one who had whirled with him in "Light-horse Jerry's" coach.

"I wish to know how soon I am to see your mistress," he exclaimed, impulsively, sitting up and striking his companion's arm byway of emphasis. To his surprise the hand was dashed away, and he distinctly heard the soldier gasp. "I beg your pardon!" he cried, fearing that he had given pain with his eager strength.

"You startled me I was half asleep," stammered the other, apologetically. "Whom do you mean by my mistress?"

"Her Royal Highness, of course," said Lorry, impatiently.

"I cannot say when you are to see the Princess," said his companion after waiting so long that Lorry felt like kicking him.

"Well, see here, my friend, do you know why I agreed to leave that place back there? I said I wouldn't go away from Graustark until I had seen her. If you fellows are spiriting me away --kidnapping me, as it were,--I want to tell you I won't have it that way. I must know, right now, where we are going in this damnable storm."

"I have orders to tell you nothing," said the soldier, staunchly.

"Orders, eh! From whom?"

"That is my affair, sir!"

"I guess I'm about as much interested in this affair as anybody, and I insist on knowing our destination. I jumped into this thing blindly, but I'm going to see my way out of it before we go much farther. Where are we going?"

"You--you will learn that soon enough," insisted the other.

"Am I to see her soon? That's what I want to know."

"You must not insist," cried the soldier.

"Why are you so anxious to see her?" he asked, suddenly.

"Don't be so blamed inquisitive," cried Grenfall, angrily, impatiently. "Tell me where we are going or I'll put a bullet into you!" Drawing his revolver he leaned over, grasped the guard by the shoulder and placed the muzzle against his breast.

"For God's sake, be calm! You would not kill me for obeying orders! I am serving one you love. Are you mad? I shall scream if you keep pressing that horrid thing against my side." Lorry felt him tremble, and was at once filled with compunction. How could he expect a loyal fellow to disobey orders?

"I beg your pardon a thousand times," he cried, jamming the pistol into his pocket. "You are a brave gentleman and I am a fool. Take me where you will; I'll go like a lamb. You'll admit, however, that it is exasperating to be going in the dark like this."

"It is a very good thing that it is dark," said the soldier, quickly. "The darkness is very kind to us. No one can see us and we can see no one."

"I should say not. I haven't the faintest idea what you look like. Have I seen you at the castle?"

"Yes, frequently."

"Will you tell me your name?"

"You would not know me by name."

"Are you an officer?"

"No; I am new to the service."

"Then I'll see that you are promoted. I like your staunchness. How old are you?"

"I am--er--twenty-two."

"Of the nobility?"

"My father was of noble birth."

"Then you must be so, too. I hope you'll forgive my rudeness. I'm a bit nervous, you know."

"I forgive you gladly."

"Devilish rough road, this."

"Devilish. It is a mountain road."

"That's where we were, too."


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