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- The Prince of Graustark - 58/58 -

"Before the Prince's dinner?" inquired Lady Simpson, again regarding his bald spot through the lorg-non.

"Depends on what my daughter has to say when she gets here," said he almost gruffly. "If she wants to stay for a while, we will remain. I don't mind saying that I have a curious longing for Wall Street. I am at home there and--well, by George, I'm like a fish out of water here."

His wife looked up quickly, but did not speak.

"I am a business man, Lady Simpson, not a philanderer. I'd like to take this town by the neck and shake some real enterprise into it, but what can you do when everybody is willing to sit down and let tradition look after 'em? I've put a lot of money into Grosstock and I'd like to see the country prosper. Still I'm not worried over my investment. It is as good as gold."

"Perfectly safe," said Lord Simpson.

"Absolutely," said the secondary London lawyer.

Pericault's comment was in French and not intended to be brief, but as Mr. Blithers was no longer interested, the privilege of completing his remarks was not accorded him. He did say _Mon dieu_ under his breath, however, in the middle of his employer's next sentence.

"As I said before, everything depends on whether my daughter wants to remain. If she says she wants to stay, that settles the point so far as I am concerned. If she says she doesn't want to stay, we'll--well, that will settle it also. I say, waiter, can't you hurry the fish along?"

"Certainly, sir. I understood M'sieur to say that there was no hurry--"

"Well, pour the champagne anyway. I think we need it."

Two hours later, Mr. Blithers looked at his watch again. The party was quite gay: at least fifty percent disorderly.

"That train has been in for an hour," said the host. "I guess Maud didn't come. I left word for the hotel to call me up if she arrived-- I say, waiter, has there been a telephone message for me?"

"No, M'sieur. We have kept a boy near the telephone all evening, M'sieur. No message."

"I also told 'em to send up any telegram that might come," he informed his wife, who merely lifted her eyebrows. They had been lowered perceptibly in consequence of the ebullience of Pericault's cousins.

The vivacious young women were attracting a great deal of attention to their table. Smart diners in the immediate neighbourhood appeared to be a trifle shocked. Three dignified looking gentlemen, seated near the door, got up and left the room.

"We really must be going," said Mrs. Blithers nervously, who had been watching the three men for some time with something akin to dismay in her soul. She had the sickening notion that they were members of the Cabinet--lords of the realm.

"All right," said Mr. Blithers, "Call the cars up, waiter. Still raining?"

"Yes, M'sieur. At this season of the year--"

"Call the cars. Let's have your bill."

Pericault's cousins were reluctant to go. In fact, they protested shrilly that it was silly to break up such a successful party at such an unseemly hour.

"Never mind," whispered Pericault softly, and winked.

"I'll leave 'em in your care, Pericault," said Mr. Blithers grimly. "They are _your_ cousins, you know."

"Trust me implicitly. Monsieur," said Pericault, bowing very deeply. Then he said good-night to Mrs. Blithers and Lady Simpson. The secondary London lawyer did the same.

Out in the wide, brilliantly lighted foyer, a few late-stayers were waiting for their conveyances to be announced. As the four departing members of the Blithers party grouped themselves near the big doors, impatient to be off, a brass-buttoned boy came up and delivered a telegram to the host.

He was on the point of tearing open the envelope when his eyes fell upon two people who had just entered the hall from without, a man and woman clad in raincoats. At the same instant the former saw Mr. Blithers. Clutching his companion's arm he directed her attention to the millionaire.

"Now for it, Bedelia," he whispered excitedly.

Bedelia gazed calmly at Mr. Blithers and Mr. Blithers gazed blankly at the Prince of Graustark. Then the great financier bowed very deeply and called out:

"Good evening, Prince!"

He received no response to his polite greeting, for the Prince was staring at Bedelia as if stupefied. The millionaire's face was very red with mortification as he turned it away.

"He--he doesn't recognise you," gasped Robin in amazement.

"Who?" she asked, her eyes searching the room with an eager, inquiring look.

"Your father," he said.

She gave him a ravishing, delighted smile.

"Oh, it is so wonderful, Robin. I have fooled you completely. That man isn't my father."

"That's Mr. Blithers or I am as blind as a bat," he exclaimed.

"Is it, indeed? The one reading the telegram, with his eyes sticking out of his head?"

Robin's head was swimming. "Good heaven, Bedelia, what are you--"

"Ah!" she cried, with a little shriek of joy. "See! There he is!"

One of the three distinguished men who had been remarked by Mrs. Blithers now separated himself from his companions and approached the couple. He was a tall, handsome man of fifty. Although his approach was swift and eager, there was in his face the signs of wrath that still struggled against joy.

She turned quickly, laid her hand upon the Prince's rigid arm, and said softly:

"My father is the Prince of Dawsbergen, dear."

* * * * *

A crumpled telegram dropped from Mr. Blithers' palsied hand to the floor as he turned a white, despairing face upon his wife. The brass- buttoned boy picked it up and handed it to Mrs. Blithers. It was from Maud.

"We were married in Vienna today. After all I think I shall not care to see Graustark. Channie is a dear. I have promised him that you will take him into the business as a partner. We are at the Bristol.



The Prince of Graustark - 58/58

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