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- The Prince of Graustark - 1/58 -
THE PRINCE OF GRAUSTARK
GEORGE BARR McCUTCHEON
Author of "Graustark", "Beverly of Graustark," etc.
With Illustrations by A.I. KELLER
I MR. AND MRS. BLITHERS DISCUSS MATRIMONY
II TWO COUNTRIES DISCUSS MARRIAGE
III MR. BLITHERS GOES VISITING
IV PROTECTING THE BLOOD
V PRINCE ROBIN is ASKED TO STAND UP
VI THE PRINCE AND MR. BLITHERS
VII A LETTER FROM MAUD
VIII ON BOARD THE JUPITER
IX THE PRINCE MEETS MISS GUILE
X AN HOUR ON DECK
XI THE LIEUTENANT RECEIVES ORDERS
XII THE LIEUTENANT REPORTS
XIII THE RED LETTER B
XIV THE CAT IS AWAY
XV THE MICE IN A TRAP
XVI THREE MESSAGES
XVII THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER
XVIII A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT
XIX "WHAT WILL MY PEOPLE DO"
XX LOVE IN ABEYANCE
XXI MR. BLITHERS ARRIVES IN GRAUSTARK
XXII A VISIT TO THE CASTLE
XIV JUST WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN EXPECTED
Her eyes were starry bright, her red lips were parted. _Frontispiece_
"You will be her choice," said the other, without the quiver of an eye-lash.
"I shall pray for continuous rough weather."
The dignified Ministry of Graustark sat agape.
MR. AND MRS. BLITHERS DISCUSS MATRIMONY
"My dear," said Mr. Blithers, with decision," you can't tell me."
"I know I can't," said his wife, quite as positively. She knew when she could tell him a thing and when she couldn't.
It was quite impossible to impart information to Mr. Blithers when he had the tips of two resolute fingers embedded in his ears. That happened to be his customary and rather unfair method of conquering her when an argument was going against him, not for want of logic on his part, but because it was easier to express himself with his ears closed than with them open. By this means he effectually shut out the voice of opposition and had the discussion all to himself. Of course, it would have been more convincing if he had been permitted to hear the sound of his own eloquence; still, it was effective.
She was sure to go on talking for two or three minutes and then subside in despair. A woman will not talk to a stone wall. Nor will she wantonly allow an argument to die while there remains the slightest chance of its survival. Given the same situation, a man would get up and leave his wife sitting there with her fingers in her ears; and, as he bolted from the room in high dudgeon, he would be mean enough to call attention to her pig-headedness. In most cases, a woman is content to listen to a silly argument rather than to leave the room just because her husband elects to be childish about a perfectly simple elucidation of the truth.
Mrs. Blithers had lived with Mr. Blithers, more or less, for twenty- five years and she knew him like a book. He was a forceful person who would have his own way, even though he had to put his fingers in his ears to get it. At one period of their joint connubial agreement, when he had succeeded in accumulating a pitiful hoard amounting to but little more than ten millions of dollars, she concluded to live abroad for the purpose of educating their daughter, allowing him in the meantime to increase his fortune to something like fifty millions without having to worry about household affairs. But she had sojourned with him long enough, at odd times, to realise that, so long as he lived, he would never run away from an argument--unless, by some dreadful hook or crook, he should be so unfortunate as to be deprived of the use of both hands. She found room to gloat, of course, in the fact that he was obliged to stop up his ears in order to shut out the incontrovertible.
Moreover, when he called her "my dear" instead of the customary Lou, it was a sign of supreme obstinacy on his part and could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be regarded as an indication of placid affection. He always said "my dear" at the top of his voice and with a great deal of irascibility.
Mr. William W. Blithers was a self-made man who had begun his career by shouting lustily at a team of mules in a railway construction camp. Other drivers had tried to improve on his vocabulary but even the mules were able to appreciate the futility of such an ambition, and later on, when he came to own two or three railroads, to say nothing of a few mines and a steam yacht, his ability to drive men was even more noteworthy than his power over the jackasses had been. But driving mules and men was one thing, driving a wife another. What incentive has a man, said he, when after he gets through bullying a creature that very creature turns in and caresses him? No self- respecting mule ever did such a thing as that, and no man would think of it except with horror. There is absolutely no defence against a creature who will rub your head with loving, gentle fingers after she has worked you up to the point where you could kill her with pleasure--or at least so said Mr. Blithers with rueful frequency.
Mr. and Mrs. Blithers had been discussing royalty. Up to the previous week they had restricted themselves to the nobility, but as an event of unexampled importance had transpired in the interim, they now felt that it would be the rankest stupidity to consider any one short of a Prince Royal in picking out a suitable husband--or, more properly speaking, consort--for their only daughter, Maud Applegate Blithers, aged twenty.
Mrs. Blithers long ago had convinced her husband that no ordinary human being of the male persuasion was worthy of their daughter's hand, and had set her heart on having nothing meaner than a Duke on the family roll,--(Blithers alluded to it for a while as the pay- roll)--, with the choice lying between England and Italy. At first, Blithers, being an honest soul, insisted that a good American gentleman was all that anybody could ask for in the way of a son-in- law, and that when it came to a grandchild it would be perfectly proper to christen him Duke--lots of people did!--and that was about all that a title amounted to anyway. She met this with the retort that Maud might marry a man named Jones, and how would Duke Jones sound? He weakly suggested that they could christen him Marmaduke and--but she reminded him of his oft-repeated boast that there was nothing in the world too good for Maud and instituted a pictorial campaign against his prejudices by painting in the most alluring colours the picture of a ducal palace in which the name of Jones would never be uttered except when employed in directing the fifth footman or the third stable-boy--or perhaps a scullery maid--to do this, that or the other thing at the behest of her Grace, the daughter of William W. Blithers. This eventually worked on his imagination to such an extent that he forgot his natural pride and admitted that perhaps she was right.
But now, just as they were on the point of accepting, in lieu of a Duke, an exceptionally promising Count, the aforesaid event conspired to completely upset all of their plans--or notions, so to speak. It was nothing less than the arrival in America of an eligible Prince of the royal blood, a ruling Prince at that. As a matter of fact he had not only arrived in America but upon the vast estate adjoining their own in the Catskills.
Fortunately nothing definite had been arranged with the Count. Mrs. Blithers now advised waiting a while before giving a definite answer
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