“Such a prize tempted him from fulfilling his little promise to me,” thought Main; “though how in sin the thing got so balled up I can’t imagine. His note to Peter certainly resulted in my being led to Gwendolyn—I can’t understand it.”
Further along in the account of the occurrence was another item which brought a second whistle to the lips of the American.
“Princess Mary,” it read, “insists that The Rider did not know her true identity until after the royal troops had rescued her and captured the brigand. He appeared to believe that she was the daughter of Abner J. Bass, the American millionaire, and that the lady in waiting who accompanied her was Mrs. Bass. An element of mystery surrounds the entire adventure, and is still further augmented by the connection which is seen between the abduction of Princess Mary and the reported assassination of Prince Boris of Karlova, the details of which appear in another column of this paper, for in the latter tragedy the names of Mrs. Bass and her daughter also appear, as well as that of Hemmington Main, an American newspaper man.”
There was an excellent reproduction of Klopkoi’s famous portrait of Mary of Margoth, beneath which was a tribute of love and devotion to “Our Little Princess, the last of the Banatoffs.”
The account of the reported assassination of the crown prince of Karlova was most carefully worded, and showed the hand of the censor in every line. The account closed with these words: “It is not yet definitely known if the prince be really dead, for following the tragedy he was spirited away by unknown accomplices of the conspirators. The servants at the royal hunting lodge deny that Prince Boris was there last night, or that he was shot; but the priest who reported the affair swears that he saw him with his own eyes and that he saw the shot fired which killed him. The authorities, it is reported, found blood upon a large Persian rug in the breakfast room, at the very spot where the priest says the prince fell, mortally wounded. The prefect of police at Demia has been asked to detain and question all strangers, especially Americans, now in the capitol. Margoth is anxious to demonstrate her friendship and sympathy for Karlova by cooperating with her in every way in the apprehension and arrest of the conspirators.”
Mr. Main’s whistle became a long and heartfelt thing as he assimilated the full purport of that last paragraph. He was still staring intently at the article when Gwendolyn Bass entered the dining room, and seeing him crossed the room to his table.
“Good morning Hemmy,” she said. “Isn’t it good to be safe and sound in Demia after all the horrid adventures of yesterday?”
“Yes,” he replied mournfully, “we’re so awfully ‘safe and sound’—look at this,” and he passed the paper over to her, holding a forefinger on the paragraph which had caused his perturbation.
Miss Bass read the article through. Then her eyes wandered to the portrait of the Princess Mary and opened in astonished wonderment.
“’Princess Mary,’” she quoted, and “‘the last of the Banatoffs’—why Hemmington Main this is little Mary Banatoff who roomed with me at college. She called on me here last evening, and I never knew she was a princess.”
Main rose excitedly and leaned across the table to look once more at the picture of the princess as though the evidence of his own eyes would substantiate that of his companion’s, though he had never seen either Mary Banatoff or the Princess Mary of Margoth.
“Why, Gwen!” he cried. “Are you sure?”
“As sure as I am that I know your face, Hemmy,” she replied.
A shadow fell across the table where the two bent over the likeness of the Margothian princess. Thinking that the waiter had come for their orders, Main looked up to behold a large, scowling gentleman gorgeous in gold lace and braid. Behind him stood a file of gendarmes.
“Monsieur Main?” asked the officer.
The American nodded.
“And Mademoiselle Bass?”
Again Main assented.
“Come with me,” said the officer; “you are under arrest.”
“Eh?” ejaculated Main.
“It is quite true, monsieur,” replied the other; “and it would be well to come without a scene.”
The American plead with the officer to permit Miss Bass to remain at the hotel; but the man was politely firm, explaining that he but acted upon the orders of a superior.
“But at least you will let her communicate with her mother?” he asked.
“Oh, yes, she will have an opportunity to communicate with her mother,” replied the officer, and when the party reached the lobby of the hotel Main discovered the explanation of the man’s generosity—Mrs. Bass was there awaiting them—she, too, was under arrest.
It was a melancholy party that drove to the gloomy portals of Demia’s gaol, likewise a silent party for their guardians would permit no conversation between the prisoners. Main still clutched the morning paper in his hand, and as he gazed vacantly at it the features of Margoth’s girlish princess smiled up at him from the blur of type. An inspiration seized him. The Princess Mary was a friend of Gwen’s. If Gwen could only see her and explain, surely everything would be set right so far as Gwen and her mother were concerned. He of course would have to pay the penalty for the shooting of Prince Boris—the pig! He asked permission to say half a dozen words to his fellow prisoner, but the guard silenced him with a curt word and a menacing shake of a baton.
They were slowing up now before the jail, and Main was at his wits ends to find a way to communicate with Gwendolyn Bass. She had risen to leave the car which had transported them from the hotel when Main seized upon the only plan that seemed at all feasible for communicating with her. Taking a pencil from his pocket he wrote across the picture of the princess: “See her,” and as Gwendolyn Bass passed him to leave the car he pushed the paper into her hands.