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Title:      The House of the Four Winds (1935)
Author:     John Buchan
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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      The House of the Four Winds (1935)
Author:     John Buchan





The earlier doings of some of the personages in this tale will be
found recorded in Huntingtower and Castle Gay.

J. B.




CONTENTS

PROLOGUE

I.  THE MAN WITH THE ELEPHANT

II.  THE HOUSE OF THE FOUR WINDS

III.  DIVERSIONS OF A MARIONETTE

IV.  DIFFICULTIES OF A REVOLUTIONARY

V.  SURPRISING ENERGY OF A CONVALESCENT

VI.  ARRIVALS AT AN INN

VII.  "SI VIEILLESSE POUVAIT"

VIII.  SPLENDIDE MENDAX

IX.  NIGHT IN THE WOODS

X.  AURUNCULEIA

XI.  THE BLOOD-RED ROOK

XII.  THE STREET OF THE WHITE PEACOCK

XIII.  THE MARCH ON MELINA

ENVOI




PROLOGUE


Great events, says the philosophic historian, spring only from
great causes, though the immediate occasion may be small; but I
think his law must have exceptions.  Of the not inconsiderable
events which I am about to chronicle, the occasion was trivial, and
I find it hard to detect the majestic agency behind them.  What
world-force, for example, ordained that Mr Dickson McCunn should
slip into the Tod's Hole in his little salmon-river on a bleak
night in April; and, without changing his clothes, should
thereafter make a tour of inspection of his young lambs?  His
action was the proximate cause of this tale, but I can see no
profounder explanation of it than the inherent perversity of man.

The performance had immediate consequences for Mr McCunn.  He awoke
next morning with a stiff neck, an aching left shoulder, and a pain
in the small of his back--he who never in his life before had had a
touch of rheumatism.  A vigorous rubbing with embrocation failed to
relieve him, and, since he was accustomed to robust health, he
found it intolerable to hobble about with a thing like a toothache
in several parts of his body.  Dr Murdoch was sent for from
Auchenlochan, and for a fortnight Mr McCunn had to endure mustard
plasters and mustard baths, to swallow various medicines, and to
submit to a rigorous diet.  The pains declined, but he found
himself to his disgust in a low state of general health, easily
tired, liable to sudden cramps, and with a poor appetite for his
meals.  After three weeks of this condition he lost his temper.
Summer was beginning, and he reflected that, being now sixty-three
years of age, he had only a limited number of summers left to him.
His gorge rose at the thought of dragging his wing through the
coming delectable months--long-lighted June, the hot July noons
with the corncrakes busy in the hay, the days on August hills, red
with heather and musical with bees.  He curbed his distaste for
medical science, and departed to Edinburgh to consult a specialist.

That specialist gave him a purifying time.  He tested his blood and
his blood pressure, kneaded every part of his frame, and for the
better part of a week kept him under observation.  At the end he
professed himself clear in the general but perplexed in the
particular.

"You've never been ill in your life?" he said.  "Well, that is just
your trouble.  You're an uncommonly strong man--heart, lungs,
circulation, digestion, all in first-class order.  But it stands to
reason that you must have secreted poisons in your body, and you
have never got them out.  The best prescription for a fit old age
is a bad illness in middle life, or, better still, a major
operation.  It drains off some of the middle-age humours.  Well,
you haven't had that luck, so you've been a powder magazine with
some nasty explosives waiting for the spark.  Your tom-fool
escapade in the Stinchar provided the spark, and here you are--a
healthy man mysteriously gone sick.  You've got to be pretty
careful, Mr McCunn.  It depends on how you behave in the next few
months whether you will be able to fish for salmon on your
eightieth birthday, or be doddering round with two sticks and a
shawl on your seventieth."

Mr McCunn was scared, penitent and utterly docile.  He professed
himself ready for the extremest measures, including the drawing of
every tooth in his head.

The specialist smiled.  "I don't recommend anything so drastic.
What you want first of all is an exact diagnosis.  I can assess
your general condition, but I can't put my finger on the precise
mischief.  That needs a technique which we haven't developed
sufficiently in this country.  Next, you must have treatment, but
treatment is a comparatively simple affair if you first get the
right diagnosis.  So I am going to send you to Germany."

Mr McCunn wailed.  Banishment from his beloved Blaweary was a
bitter pill.

"Yes, to Germany.  To quite a pretty place called Rosensee, in
Saxon Switzerland.  There's a kurhaus there run by a man called
Christoph.  You never heard his name, of course--few people have--
but he is a therapeutic genius of the first order.  You can take my
word for that.  I've known him again and again pull people out of
their graves.  His main subject is nerves, but he is good for
everything that is difficult and mysterious, for in my opinion he
is the greatest diagnoser in the world. . . .  By the way, you live
in Carrick?  Well, I sent one of your neighbours to Rosensee last
year--Sir Archibald Roylance--he was having trouble with a damaged
leg--and now he walks nearly as well as you and me.  It seems there
was a misplaced sinew which everybody else had overlooked. . . .
Dr Christoph will see you three times a day, stare at you like an
owl, ask you a thousand questions and make no comment for at least
a fortnight.  Then he will deliver judgment, and you may take it
that it will be right.  After that the treatment is a simple
matter.  In a week or two you will be got up in green shorts and a
Tyrolese hat and an alpenstock and a rope round your middle,
climbing the little rocks of those parts. . . .  Yes, I think I can
promise you that you'll be fit and ready for the autumn salmon."

Mr McCunn, trained to know a competent man when he saw him,
accepted the consultant's prescription, and rooms were taken for
him at the Rosensee kurhaus.  His wife did not accompany him for
three reasons: first, she had a profound distaste for foreign
countries and regarded Germany as still a hostile State; second,
she could not believe that rheumatism, which was an hereditary
ailment in her own family, need be taken seriously, so she felt no
real anxiety about his health; third, he forbade her.  She proposed
to stay at Blaweary till the end of June, and then to await her
husband's return at a Rothesay hydropathic.  So early in the month
Mr McCunn a little disconsolately left these shores.  He took with
him as body-servant and companion one Peter Wappit, who at Blaweary
was game-keeper, forester and general handy-man.  Peter, having
fought in France with the Scots Fusiliers, and having been two
years a prisoner in Germany, was believed by his master to be an
adept at foreign tongues.



Nor was there any profound reason in the nature of things why Lord
Rhynns, a well-preserved gentleman of sixty-seven, should have
tumbled into a ditch that spring at Vallescure and broken his left
leg.  He was an active man and a careful, but his mind had been
busy with the Newmarket entries, so that he missed a step, rolled
some yards down a steep slope of rock and bracken, and came to rest
with a leg doubled unpleasantly under him.  The limb was well set,
but neuritis followed, with disastrous consequences to the Rhynns
ménage.  For his wife, whose profession was a gentle invalidism,
found herself compelled to see to household affairs, and as a
result was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  The family moved
from watering-place to watering-place, seeking a cure for his
lordship's affliction, till at the mountain village of Unnutz Lady
Rhynns could bear it no longer.  A telegram was despatched to their
only child requiring her instant attendance upon distressed
parents.

This was a serious blow to Miss Alison Westwater, who had been
making very different plans for the summer.  She was then in
London, living with her Aunt Harriet, who two years before had
espoused Mr Thomas Carlyle Craw, the newspaper magnate.  It was the
Craws' purpose to go north after Ascot to the Westwater house,
Castle Gay, in the Canonry, of which Mr Craw had a long lease, and
Alison, for whom a very little of London sufficed, had exulted in
the prospect.  Now she saw before her some dismal weeks--or months--
in an alien land, in the company of a valetudinarian mother and a
presumably irascible father.  Her dreams of Scotland, to which she
was passionately attached, of salmon in the Callowa and trout in
the hill lochs and bright days among the heather, had to be
replaced by a dreary vista of baking foreign roads, garish foreign
hotels, tarnished pine-woods, tidy clothes and all the things which
her soul abominated.

There was perhaps more of a cosmic motive in the determination that
summer of the doings of Mr Dougal Crombie and Sir Archibald
Roylance, for in their cases we touch the fringe of high politics.
Dougal was now a force, almost THE force, in the Craw Press.  The
general manager, Mr Archibald Bamff, was growing old, he had taken
to himself a wife, and his fancy toyed pleasantly with retirement
to some country hermitage.  So in the past year Dougal had been
gradually taking over his work, and, since he had the complete
confidence of Mr Craw, and the esteem of Mr Craw's masterful wife,
he found himself in his early twenties charged with much weighty
and troublesome business.  He was a power behind the throne, and
the more potent because few suspected his presence.  Only one or
two people--a Cabinet minister, an occasional financial magnate, a
few highly placed Government officials--realised the authority that
was wielded by this sombre and downright young man.  Early in June
he set out on an extensive Continental trip, the avowed purpose of
which was to look into certain paper-making concerns which Mr Craw
had acquired after the war.  But his main object was not disclosed,
for it was deeply secret.  Mr Craw had long interested himself in
the republic of Evallonia, his sympathies being with those who
sought to restore the ancient monarchy.  Now it appeared that the
affairs of that country were approaching a crisis, and it was
Dougal's mission to spy out the land.

As for Sir Archibald Roylance, he had been saddled with an
honourable but distasteful duty.  He had been the better part of
two years in the House of Commons, and had already made a modest
mark.  He spoke infrequently and always on matters which he knew
something about--the air, agriculture, foreign affairs--and his
concise and well-informed speeches were welcomed amid the common
verbiage of debate.  He had become parliamentary private secretary
to the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who had been at school
with him.  That summer the usual Disarmament Conference was
dragging its slow length along; it became necessary for Mr
Despenser, the Under-Secretary, to go to Geneva, and Sir Archie was
ordered to accompany him.  He received the mandate with little
pleasure.  The session that summer would end early, and he wanted
to get to Crask, for he had been defrauded of his Easter holiday in
the Highlands.  Geneva he believed might last for months and he
detested the place, which, as Lord Lamancha had once said, was full
of the ghosts of mouldy old jurisconsults, and the living presence
of cosmopolitan bores.  But his spirits had improved when he
discovered that he might take Janet with him.

"We'll find a chance of slipping away," he told his wife.  "One
merit of these beastly conferences is that they are always
adjourning.  We'll hop it into eastern Europe or some other fruity
place.  Hang it all, now that I've got the use of both legs, I
don't see why we shouldn't climb a mountain or two.  Dick Hannay's
yarns have made me rather keen to try that game."

Certain of these transmigrations played havoc with the plans of Mr
John Galt, of St. Mark's College, Cambridge, who, having just
attained a second class in his Tripos and having so concluded his
university career, felt himself entitled to an adequate holiday.
He had intended to make his headquarters at Blaweary, which was the
only home he had ever known, and thence to invade the Canonry,
fishing its lochs and sleeping in its heather.  But Blaweary would
presently be shut up in Mr McCunn's absence, and if Alison
Westwater was not at Castle Gay, the Canonry lost all its charm.
Still, he must have some air and exercise.  The summer term had
been busy and stuffy, and to a Rugby player there were few
attractions in punts among lilied backwaters.  He would probably
have to go alone to the Canonry, but his fancy had begun to toy
with another scheme--a walking-tour in southeastern France or among
the Jura foothills, where new sights and smells and sounds would
relieve his loneliness.  It was characteristic of him that he never
thought of finding a male companion; for the last two years Alison
had been for him the only companion in the world.

On the 13th of June he was still undecided, but that night his
thoughts were narrowed to a happy orbit.  For Alison was dining
with him before her journey abroad, and together they were going on
to a party which the Lamanchas were giving to the delegates to an
international conference then in session in London.  For one
evening at least the world was about to give him all he desired.

It was a warm night, but the great room at Maurice's was cool with
fans and sunblinds, though every table was occupied.  From their
corner, at the foot of the shallow staircase which is the main
entrance, they had an excellent view of the company.  There seemed
to be a great many uniforms about, and a dazzling array of orders,
no doubt in view of the Lamancha function.  It was easy to talk,
for at Maurice's there is no band till supper-time.

"You shouldn't have brought me here, Jaikie," said Alison.  "It's
too extravagant.  And you're giving me far too good a dinner."

"It's a celebration," was the answer.  "I've done with Cambridge."

"Are you sorry?"

"No.  I liked it, for I like most things, but I don't want to
linger over them."

The girl laughed merrily, and a smile slowly crept into Jaikie's
face.

"You're quite right," he said.  "That was a priggish thing to say,
but it's true, all the same."

"I know.  I never met anyone who wasted so little time in regrets.
I wish I were like you, for I want anything I like to go on for
ever.  Cambridge must have slipped off you like water off a duck's
back.  What did you get out of it?"

"Peace to grow up.  I've very nearly grown up now.  I have
discovered most of the things I can do and the things I can't.  I
know the things I like and the things I don't."

Alison knitted her brows.  "That's not much good.  So do I.  The
thing to find out is, what you can do BEST and what you like MOST.
You told me a year ago that that was what you were after.  Have you
decided?"

"No," was the glum answer.  "I think I have collected the material,
so to speak, but I haven't sorted it out.  I was looking to you to
help me this summer in the Canonry, and now you're bolting to Italy
or somewhere."

"Not Italy, my dear.  A spot called Unnutz in the Tirol.  You're
not very good at geography."

"Mayn't I come too?"

"No, you mayn't.  You'd simply loath it.  A landscape like a
picture postcard.  Tennis and bumble-puppy golf and promenades, all
in smart clothes.  Infinite boring evenings when I have to play
picquet with Papa or talk hotel French to Mamma's friends.
Besides, my family wouldn't understand you.  You haven't been
properly presented to them, and Unnutz is not the place for that.
You wouldn't be at your best there."

Two people passed on the way to their table, a tall young man with
a lean ruddy face, and a pretty young woman, whose hair was nearly
as bright a thing as Alison's.  The young woman stopped.

"My dear Allie," she cried, "I haven't seen you for ages.  Archie,
it's Cousin Allie.  They tell me you're being dragged abroad, the
same as us.  What's your penitentiary?  Ours is Geneva."

"Mine's a place in the Tirol.  Any chance of our meeting?"

"There might be.  Archie has a notion of dashing about, for
apparently an international conference is mostly adjournments.
He's so spry on his legs since Dr Christoph took him in hand that
he rather fancies himself as a mountaineer.  What's your address?"

The lady scribbled it down in a notebook which she took from her
bag, nodded gaily, and followed her husband and a waiter to their
own table.  Alison looked after them.

"That's the nicest couple on earth.  She was Janet Raden, a sort of
cousin of mine.  Her husband, Archie Roylance . . ."

Jaikie interrupted.

"Great Scot!  Is that Sir Archibald Roylance?  I once knew him
pretty well--for one day.  I've told you about the Gorbals Diehards
and Huntingtower.  He was the ally we enlisted--lived at a place
called the Mains of Garple.  Ask Mr McCunn about him.  I've often
wondered when I should see him again, for I felt pretty certain I
would--some day.  He hasn't changed much."

"He can't change.  Sir Archie is the most imperishable thing God
ever created.  He'll be a wild boy till he's ninety.  Even with
Janet to steady him I consider him dangerous, especially now that
he has no longer a game leg. . . .  Hullo, Jaikie.  We're digging
into the past to-night.  Look who's over there."

She nodded towards a very brilliant table where some twenty people
were dining, most of them in uniform.  Among them was a fair young
man in ordinary evening dress, without any decorations.  He
suddenly turned his face, recognised Alison, and, with a word of
apology to the others, left his seat and came towards her.  When
she rose and curtsied, Jaikie had a sudden recollection.

"It is Miss Westwater, is it not?" said the young man, bowing over
her hand.  "My adorable preserver!  I have not forgotten Prince
Charlie and the Solway sands."

He turned to Jaikie.

"And the Moltke of the campaign, too!  What is the name?  Wait a
minute.  I have it--Jaikie.  What fun to see you again!  Are you
two by any happy chance espoused?"

"Not yet," said Alison.  "What are you doing in England, sir?"

"Holidaying.  I cannot think why all the world does not holiday in
England.  It is the only really peaceful and pleasant place."

"How true, sir!  I have to go abroad to-morrow, and I feel like an
exile."

"Then why do you go?"

"I am summoned by neglected parents.  To Unnutz, in the Tirol."

The young man's pleasant face grew suddenly grave.

"Unnutz.  Above the Waldersee, in the Firnthal?"

"The same.  Do you know it, sir?"

"I know it.  I do not think it a very good place for a holiday--not
this summer.  But if it becomes unpleasant you can return home, for
you English are always free to travel.  But I should be careful in
Unnutz, my dear Miss Westwater, and I should take Mr Jaikie with
you as a protector."

He shook hands and departed smiling, but he left on the two the
impression of an unexpected solemnity.

"What do you suppose is worrying Prince John?" Alison asked.

"The affairs of Evallonia.  You remember at Castle Gay we thought
the Republic would blow up any moment and that a month or two would
see Prince John on the throne.  That's two years ago and nothing
has happened.  Dougal is out there now looking into the situation.
He may ginger them up."

"What makes him so solemn about Unnutz?  By all accounts it's the
ordinary gimcrack little foreign watering-place.  He talked of it
as if it were a sort of Chicago slum."

"He is a wise man, for he said you should take me with you."

They had reached the stage of coffee and cigarettes, and were now
more free to watch their neighbours.  It was a decorous assembly,
in accordance with the tradition of Maurice's, and the only gaiety
seemed to be among the womenkind of Prince John's party.  The
Prince's own face was very clear in the light of an overhanging
lamp, and both Alison and Jaikie found themselves watching it--its
slight heaviness in repose, its quick vivacity when interested, the
smile which drew half its charm from a most attractive wrinkling
around the eyes.

"It is the face of a prince," said Alison, "but not of a king--at
any rate, not the kind of king that wins a throne.  There's no
dynamite in it."

"What sort of face do you give makers of revolutions?" Jaikie
asked.

The girl swung round and regarded him steadily.

"Your sort," she said.  "You look so meek and good that everybody
loves you.  And wise, wise like an old terrier.  And yet, in the
two years I have known you, you have filled up your time with the
craziest things.  First"--she counted on her fingers--"you went off
to Baffin Island to trade old rifles for walrus ivory."

Jaikie grinned.  "I made seventy-three pounds clear: I call that a
success."

"Then you walked from Cambridge to Oxford within a day and a
night."

"That was a failure.  I was lame for a fortnight and couldn't play
in the Welsh match."

"You went twice as a deck hand on a Grimsby trawler--first to Bear
Island and then to the Whales' Back.  I don't know where these
places are, but they sound beastly."

"They were.  I was sick most of the time."

"Last and worst, it was only your exams and my prayers that kept
you from trying to circumnavigate Britain in a sailing canoe, when
you would certainly have been drowned.  What do you mean by it,
Jaikie?  It looks as if you were as neurotic as a Bloomsbury
intellectual, though in a different way.  Why this restlessness?"

"I wasn't restless.  I did it all quite calmly, on purpose."  Into
Jaikie's small face there had come an innocent seriousness.

"You see," he went on, "when I was a small boy I was rather a hardy
citizen.  I've told you about that.  Then Mr McCunn civilised me,
which I badly needed.  But I didn't want it to soften me.  We are
living in a roughish world to-day, and it is going to get rougher,
and I don't want to think that there is any experience to which I
can't face up.  I've been trying to keep myself tough.  You see
what I mean, Alison?"

"I see.  It's rather like painting the lily, you know.  I wish I
were going to the Canonry, for there's a lot of things I want to
have out with you.  Promise to keep quiet till I come back."

The Lamanchas' party was so large and crowded that Alison and
Jaikie found it easy to compass solitude.  Once out of the current
that sucked through the drawing-rooms towards the supper-room there
were quiet nooks to be discovered in the big house.  One such they
found in an alcove, where the upper staircase ascended from the
first floor, and where, at a safe distance, they could watch the
procession of guests.  Alison pointed out various celebrities to
the interested Jaikie, and a number of relations with whom she had
no desire to have closer contact.  But on one of the latter she
condescended to details.  He was a very tall man, whose clothes,
even in that well-dressed assembly, were conspicuous for their
elegance.  He had a neatly trimmed blond beard, and hair worn a
little longer than the fashion and as wavy as a smart woman's
coiffure.  They only saw his profile as he ascended the stairs, and
his back as he disappeared into the main drawing-room.

"There's another cousin of mine," said the girl, "the queerest in
all our queer clan.  His name is Randal Glynde, and he has been
everything in his time from cow-puncher to film star, not to
mention diplomat, and various sorts of soldier, and somebody's
private secretary.  The family doesn't approve of him, for they
never know what he'll do next, but he was very nice to me when I
was a little girl, and I used to have a tremendous culte for him."

Jaikie was not listening, for he felt very depressed.  This was his
last hour with Alison for months, and the light had suddenly gone
out of his landscape.  He had never been lonely in his life before
he met her, having at the worst found good company in himself; but
now he longed for a companion, and out of the many millions of the
world's inhabitants there was only one that he wanted.

"I can't go to Scotland," he said.  "Blaweary is impossible, and if
I went into the Canonry with you not there I'd howl."

"Poor Jaikie!"  Alison laid a hand upon his.  "But it's only
another bit of the toughening you're so fond of.  I promise to
write to you a great deal, and it won't be long till the autumn.
You won't be half as lonely as I."

"I wish I thought that," said Jaikie, brightening a little.  "I
like being alone, but I don't like being lonely.  I think I'll go
abroad too."

"Why don't you join Mr McCunn?"

"He won't let me.  He's doing a cure and is forbidden company."

"Or Dougal?"

"He wouldn't have me either.  He thinks he's on some silly kind of
secret service, and he's as mysterious about it as a sick owl.  But
I might go for a tramp somewhere.  My finances will just run to
it."

"Hullo, here's Ran," said Alison.  The tall man with the fair beard
had drifted towards them, and was now looking down on the girl.  On
a closer view he appeared to be nearer forty than thirty.  Jaikie
noticed that he had Alison's piercing blue eyes, with the same
dancing light in them.  There and then, being accustomed to rapid
judgments, he felt well disposed towards the tall stranger.

"Alison dear."  Mr Glynde put his hand on the girl's head.  "I hear
that your father has at last achieved gout."

"No.  It's neuritis, which makes him much angrier.  He would accept
gout as a family legacy, but he dislikes unexpected visitations.  I
go out to him to-morrow."

"Unnutz, isn't it?  A dreary little place.  I fear you won't enjoy
it, my dear."

"Where have you come from, Ran?  We last heard of you in Russia."

"I have been in many places since Russia."  Mr Glynde's voice had
an odd quality in it, as if he were gently communing with himself.
"After a time in deep water I come up to breathe, and then go down
again."

"You've chosen very smart clothes to breathe in."

"I always try to suit my clothes to my company.  It is the only way
to be inconspicuous."

"Have you been writing any more poetry?"

"Not a word in English, but I have written some rather charming
things in mediæval Latin.  I'll send you them.  It is the best
tongue for a vagabond."

Alison introduced Jaikie.

"Here's another of your totem, Cousin Ran.  You can't corrupt him,
for he is quite as mad as you."

Mr Glynde smiled pleasantly as he shook hands, and Jaikie had an
impression that his eyes were the most intelligent that he had ever
seen, eyes which took in everything, and saw very deep, and had a
mind behind them that did not forget.  He felt too that something
in his own face pleased the other, for there was friendliness
behind the inquisition.

"He has just finished Cambridge, and finds himself at a loose end.
He is hesitating between Scotland and a tramp on the Continent.
What do you advise?"

"When you are young these decisions may be fateful things.  I have
always trusted to the spin of a coin.  I carry with me a Greek
stater which has made most of my decisions for me.  What about
tossing for it?"

He took from the pocket of his white waistcoat a small gold coin
and handed it to Jaikie.

"It's a lucky coin," he said.  "At least it has brought me infinite
amusement.  Try it."

Jaikie had a sudden queer feeling that the occasion had become
rather solemn, almost sacramental.  "Heads Scotland, tails abroad,"
he said and tossed.  It fell tails.

"Behold," said Mr Glynde, "your mind is made up for you.  You will
wander along in the white dust and drink country wine and doze in
the woods, knowing that the unseen Powers are with you.  Where, by
the way, did you think of going?  You have no preference?  You have
been very little abroad?  How fortunate to have all Europe spread
out for your choice.  But I should not go too far east, Mr Galt.
Keep to the comfortable west if you want peace.  If you go too far
east this summer, you may find that the spin of my little stater
has been rather too fateful."

As Jaikie put Alison into a taxi, he observed Mr Glynde leaving the
house on foot with a companion.  He had a glimpse of that
companion's face, and saw that it was Prince John of Evallonia.



I


THE MAN WITH THE ELEPHANT


The inn at Kremisch, the Stag with the Two Heads, has an upper room
so bowed with age that it leans drunkenly over the village street.
It is a bare place, which must be chilly in winter, for the old
casement has many chinks in it, and the china stove does not look
efficient, and the rough beechen table, marked by many beer mugs,
and the seats of beechwood and hide are scarcely luxurious.  But on
this summer night to one who had been tramping all day on roads
deep in white dust under a merciless sun it seemed a haven of ease.
Jaikie had eaten an admirable supper on a corner of the table, a
supper of cold ham, an omelet, hot toasted rye-cakes and a
seductive cheese.  He had drunk wine tapped from a barrel and cold
as water from a mountain spring, and had concluded with coffee and
cream in a blue cup as large as a basin.  Now he could light his
pipe and watch the green dusk deepen behind the onion spire of the
village church.

The milestones in his journey had been the wines.  Jaikie was no
connoisseur, and indeed as a rule preferred beer, but the vintage
of a place seemed to give him the place's flavour and wines made a
diary of his pilgrimage.  His legs bore him from valley to valley,
but he drank himself from atmosphere to atmosphere.  He had begun
among strong burgundies which needed water to make a thirst-
quenching drink, and continued through the thin wines of the hills
to the coarse red stuff of south Germany and a dozen forgotten
little local products.  In one upland place he had found a drink
like the grey wine of Anjou, in another a sweet thing like Madeira,
and in another a fiery sherry.  Each night at the end of his tramp
he concocted a long drink, and he stuck manfully to the juice of
the grape; so, having a delicate palate and a good memory, he had
now behind him a map of his track picked out in honest liquors.

Each was associated with some vision of sun-drenched landscape.  He
had been a month on the tramp, but he seemed to have walked through
continents.  As he half dozed at the open window, it was pleasant
to let his fancy run back along the road.  It had led him through
vineyards grey at the fringes with dust, through baking beet-fields
and drowsy cornlands and solemn forests; up into wooded hills and
flowery meadows, and once or twice almost into the jaws of the
great mountains; through every kind of human settlement, from
hamlets which were only larger farms to brisk burghs clustered
round opulent town-houses or castles as old as Charlemagne; by
every kind of stream--unfordable great rivers, and milky mountain-
torrents, and reedy lowland waters, and clear brooks slipping
through mint and water-cress.  He had walked and walked, seeking to
travel and not to arrive, and making no plans except that his face
was always to the sunrise.  He was very dimly aware at any moment
of his whereabouts, for his sole map was a sketchy thing out of a
Continental Bradshaw.

But he had walked himself into contentment.  At the start he had
been restless and lonely.  He wished that he could have brought
Woolworth, now languishing at Blaweary, but he could not condemn
that long-suffering terrier to months of quarantine.  He wrote
disconsolate letters to Alison in his vile handwriting, and
received from her at various postes-restantes replies which
revealed the dullness of her own life at Unnutz.  She had nothing
to write about, and it was never her habit to spoil good paper with
trivial reflections.  There was a time at the start when Jaikie's
mind had been filled with exasperating little cares, so that he
turned a blank face to the world he was traversing.  His future--
what was he to do now that he was done with Cambridge?  Alison--his
need of her grew more desperate every day, but what could he offer
her worthy of her acceptance?  Only his small dingy self, he
concluded, with nothing to his credit except a second-class degree,
some repute at Rugby football, and the slenderest of bank balances.
It seemed the most preposterous affair of a moth and a star.

But youth and the sun and wide spaces played their old healing
part.  He began to rise whistling from his bed in a pinewood or in
a cheap country inn, with a sense that the earth was very spacious
and curious.  The strong aromatic sunlight drugged him into
cheerfulness.  The humours of the road were spread before him.  He
had learned to talk French fairly well, but his German was scanty;
nevertheless, he had the British soldier's gift of establishing
friendship on a meagre linguistic basis, and he slipped inside the
life of sundry little communities.  His passion for new landscapes
made every day's march a romance, and, having a love of the human
comedy, he found each night's lodging an entertainment.  He
understood that he was looking at things in a new perspective.
What had seemed a dull track between high walls was now expanding
into open country.

Especially he thought happily about Alison.  He did not think of
her as a bored young woman with peevish parents in a dull health
resort, but as he knew her in the Canonry, an audacious ally in any
venture, staunch as the hills, kind as a west wind.  So far as she
was concerned, prudential thoughts about the future were an insult.
She was there waiting for him as soon as he could climb to her high
level.  He encountered no delicacy of scene or weather but he
longed to have her beside him to enjoy it.  He treasured up scraps
of wayside humour for her amusement, and even some shy meditations
which some day he would confide to her.  They did not go into his
letters, which became daily scrappier--but these letters now
concluded with what for Jaikie were almost the messages of a lover.

He was in a calmer mood, too, about himself.  Had he been more
worldly-wise he might have reflected that some day he must be a
rich man.  Dickson McCunn had no chick nor child nor near relation,
and he and Dougal were virtually his adopted sons.  Dougal was
already on the road to wealth and fame, and Dickson would see that
Jaikie was well provided for.  But characteristically he never
thought of that probability.  He had his own way to make with no
man's aid, and he was only waiting to discover the proper starting-
point.  But a pleasing lethargy possessed him.  This delectable
summer world was not the place for making plans.  So far he was
content with what he had done.  Dickson had drawn him out of the
depths into the normal light of day, and it had been his business
to accustom his eyes to it.  He was aware that, without Cambridge,
he would have always been a little shy and suspicious of the life
of a class into which he had not been born; now he knew it for what
it was worth, and could look at it without prejudice but also
without glamour.  "Brother to a beggar, and fellow to a king"--what
was Dougal's phrase?  Jaikie was no theorist, but he had a working
philosophy, with the notion at the back of his head that human
nature was much the same everywhere, and that one might dig out of
the unlikeliest places surprising virtues.  He considered that he
had been lucky enough to have the right kind of education for the
practice of this creed.

But it was no philosopher who sat with his knees hunched on the
window-seat, but a drowsy and rather excited boy.  His travels had
given him more than content, for in these last days a faint but
delicious excitement had been creeping into his mind.  He was not
very certain of his exact whereabouts on the map, but he knew that
he had crossed the border of the humdrum world and was in a land of
enchantments.  There was nothing in the ritual of his days to
justify this; his legs like compasses were measuring out the same
number of miles; the environment was the same, the slow kindly
peasants, the wheel of country life, the same bright mornings and
cool evenings, the same plain meals voraciously eaten, and hard
beds in which he fell instantly asleep.  He could speak little of
the language, and he did not know one soul within a hundred miles.
He was the humblest of pilgrims, and the lowness of his funds would
presently compel his return.  Nevertheless, he was ridiculously
expectant.  He laughed at himself, but he could not banish the
mood.  He was awaiting something--or something was awaiting him.

The apple-green twilight deepened into emerald, and then into a
velvet darkness, for the moon would rise late, and a haze obscured
the stars.  Long ago the last child had been hunted from the street
into bed.  Long ago the last villagers had left the seat under the
vine trellis where they had been having their evening sederunt.
Long ago the oxen had been brought into the byres and the goats
driven in from the hillside.  A wood-wagon had broken down by the
bridge, and the blacksmith had been hammering at its axle, but his
job was finished, and a spark of a lamp beaconed the derelict cart.
Otherwise there was no light in earth or heaven, and no sound
except the far-away drone of a waterfall in the high woods and an
occasional stirring of beasts in byre or stable.  Kremisch was in
the deep sleep of those who labour hard, bed early, and rise with
the dawn.  Jaikie grew drowsy.  He shook out his pipe, drew a long
breath of the cool night air, and rose to take the lamp from the
table and ascend to his bedroom.

Suddenly a voice spoke.  It came from the outer air at about the
level of the window.  And it asked in German for a match.

Balaam was not more startled by the sudden loquacity of his ass
than was Jaikie by this aerial summons.  It shook him out of his
sleepiness and made him nearly drop the lamp.  "God bless my soul,"
he said--his chief ejaculation, which he had acquired from Mr
McCunn.

"He will," said the voice, "if you'll give me a light for my
cigarette."

The spirit apparently spoke English, and Jaikie, reassured, held
the lamp to the darkness of the open casement.  There was a face
there, suspended in the air, a face with cheeks the colour of a dry
beech leaf and a ragged yellow beard.  It was a friendly face, and
in the mouth was an unlit cigarette.

"What are you standing on?" Jaikie asked, for it occurred to him
that this must be a man on stilts.  He had heard of these as a
custom in malarial foreign places.

"To be accurate, I am sitting," was the answer.  "Sitting on an
elephant, if you must know.  An agreeable female whom I call
Aurunculeia.  Out of Catullus, you remember.  Almost his best
poem."

Jaikie lit a match, but the speaker waved it aside.  "I think, if
you don't mind," he said, "I'll come in and join you for a minute.
One doesn't often meet an Englishman in these parts, and
Aurunculeia has no vulgar passion for haste.  As you have no doubt
guessed, she and I are part of a circus--an integral and vital
part--what you might call the primum mobile.  But we were detained
by a little accident.  I was asleep, and we strayed from the road
and did havoc in a field of marrows, which made some unpleasantness.
So our lovely companions have faded and gone ahead to savour the
fleshpots of Tarta, while we follow at our leisure.  You have never
ridden on an elephant?  If you go slow enough, believe me it is the
very poetry of motion, for you are part, as it were, of a cosmic
process.  How does it go?  'Moved round in earth's diurnal course,
With rocks and stones and trees.'"

A word was spoken in a lower tone, there was the sound of the
shuffling of heavy feet, and a man stepped lightly on to the
window-sill and through the casement.  His first act was to turn up
the wick of the lamp on the table, and light his cigarette at its
funnel.

Jaikie found himself gazing at a figure which might have been the
Pied Piper.  It was very tall and very ragged.  It wore an old
tunic of horizon-blue from which most of the buttons had gone, a
scarlet cummerbund, and flapping cotton trousers which had once
been white.  It had no hat, and besides its clothes, its only other
belonging was a long silver-mounted porcupine quill, which may have
been used for the encouragement of Aurunculeia.

The scarecrow looked at Jaikie and saw something there which amused
him, for he set his arms akimbo and laughed heartily.  "How nature
creeps up to art!" he cried.  "Had this been an episode in a novel,
it would have been condemned for its manifest improbability.  There
was an impish propulsive power about my little gold stater."

He took a small coin from his pocket and regarded it affectionately.
Then he asked a question which brought Jaikie out of his chair.
"Have you any news of Cousin Alison, Mr Galt?"

Slowly, to Jaikie's startled sight, the features of the scarecrow
became the lineaments of the exquisite Mr Randal Glynde.  The neat
hair was now shaggy and very dusty, the beard was untrimmed, and
every semblance of respectability had gone from his garments.  But
the long lean wrists were the same, the long slim fingers, and the
penetrating blue eyes.

Mr Glynde replaced the stater in some corner of his person, and
beamed upon Jaikie.  He stretched an arm and grasped the jug of
wine of which Jaikie had drunk about half, took a long pull at it,
and set it down with a wry face.

"Vinegar," he said.  "I had forgotten that the Flosgebirge wine
sours in an hour.  Do not trouble yourself, Mr Galt, for I have
long ago supped.  We were talking about Cousin Alison, for whom I
understand you have a kindness.  So have I.  So gracious is my
memory of her that I have been reciting verses in her honour in the
only tongue in which a goddess should be hymned.


     Alison, bella puella candida,
     Quae bene superas lac et lilium
     Album, quae simul rosam rubidam
     Aut expolitum ebur Indicum,
     Pande, puella, pande capillulos
     Flavos, lucentes ut aurum nitidum.


What puzzles me is whether that is partly my own or wholly John the
Silentiar's.  I had been reading John the Silentiar, but the book
was stolen from me, so I cannot verify. . . .  No, I will not sleep
here.  I must sleep at Tarta, though it will be broad daylight
before I shut my eyes.  Tatius, my manager, is a worthy man, but he
is to Meleager my clown as acid to a raw wound, and without me to
calm them they will be presently rubbing each other's noses in the
mud."

"Are you a circus proprietor?" Jaikie asked.

Mr Glynde nodded pleasantly.

"In me you see the sole proprietor of the epochal, the
encyclopædic, the grandiose Cirque Doré of Aristide Lebrun.  The
epithets are not mine, but those of the late Aristide, who these
three years has been reposing in full evening dress in the cemetery
of Montléry.  I purchased the thing from his widow, stock-in-trade,
good-will and all--even the gentle Aurunculeia.  I have travelled
with it from the Pyrenees to the Carpathians and from the Harz to
the Apennines.  Some day, who knows, I will widen these limits and
go from the Sierra-Nevada to the Urals, and from the Jotunheim to
Parnassus.  Geography has always intoxicated me."

"I understand the fun of travelling," said Jaikie, "but isn't a
circus rather heavy baggage to lug after you?"

"Ah, no.  You do not realise the power of him who carries with him
a little world of merriment, which can be linked to that substratum
of merriment which is found in every human species.  No fumbling
for him--he finds the common touch at once.  He must suit himself
of course to various tastes.  Clowning in one place, horse-tricks
in a second, the sweet Aurunculeia in a third.  The hills have
different fancies from the valleys, and the valleys from the
plains.  The Cirque Doré is small, but I flatter myself it is
select.  We have as fine white barbs as ever came out of Africa,
and Meleager my clown has the common denominator of comedy at
which all Europe can laugh.  No women.  Too temperamental and
troublesome.  My people quarrel in every known tongue, but, being
males, it is summer lightning. . . .  Ah, Mr Galt, I cannot explain
to you the intoxication of shifting camp weekly, not from town to
town, but from one little human cosmos to another.  I have the key
which unlocks all doors, and can steal into the world at the back
of men's minds, about which they do not speak to their politicians
and scarcely even to their priests.

"I have power, too," Mr Glynde went on; "for I appeal to something
old and deep in man's nature.  Before this I have wrecked a
promising insurrection through the superior charm of my circus over
an émeute in a market-place.  I have protected mayors and
burgomasters from broken heads, and maybe from cut throats, by my
mild distractions.  And I have learned many things that are hidden
from diplomats and eager journalists.  I, the entertainer, the fils
de joie, I am becoming an expert, if I may say so modestly, on the
public opinion of Europe--or rather on that incoherent soul which
is greater than opinion."

"Well, and what do you make of it?" Jaikie asked.  He was
fascinated by his visitor, the more so as he was a link with
Alison, but sleep was descending upon him like an armed man, and he
asked the conventional question without any great desire to hear
the answer.

"Bad," said Mr Glynde.  "Or, since a moral judgment is unnecessary,
shall I say odd?  We are now in the midst of the retarded
liquidation of the war.  I do not mean debts and currencies and
economic fabrics, but something much more vital--the thoughts of
men.  The democracies have lost confidence.  So long as they
believed in themselves they could make shift with constitutions and
parliaments and dull republics.  But once let them lose confidence,
and they are like children in the dark, reaching out for the grasp
of a strong hand.  That way lies the dictator.  It might be the
monarch if we bred the right kind of king. . . .  Also there is
something more dangerous still, a stirring of youth, disappointed,
aggrieved youth, which has never known the discipline of war.
Imaginative and incalculable youth, which clamours for the moon and
may not be content till it has damaged most of the street lamps.

"But you nod," said Mr Glynde rising.  "I weary you.  You must to
bed and I to Tarta.  I must not presume upon the celestial patience
of Aurunculeia."

Jaikie rose too and found the tall man's hand on his shoulder.  He
observed sleepily that his visitor's face, now clear in the
lamplight, had changed, the smile had gone from it, and the eyes
were cool and rather grave.  Also the slight artifice of his
speech, which recalled an affected Cambridge don of his
acquaintance, was suddenly dropped.

"I gave you certain advice," said Mr Glynde, "when you spun my
stater in London.  I told you that if you wanted peace you should
stick to the west.  You are pretty far east, Mr Galt, so I assume
that a quiet life is not your first object.  You have been walking
blindly and happily for weeks waiting for what the days brought
forth.  Have you any very clear notion where you have got to?"

"I'm rather vague, for I have a rotten map.  But I know that I've
come to the end of my money.  To-morrow I must turn about and make
for home.  I mean to get to Munich and travel back by the cheapest
way."

"Three and a quarter miles from Kremisch the road to Tarta drops
into a defile among pine-trees.  At the top there are two block-
houses, one on each side of the highway.  If you walked that way
armed guards would emerge from the huts and demand your passport.
Also they would make an inquisition into your baggage more
peremptory than most customs-officers.  That is the frontier of
Evallonia."

Jaikie's sleepiness left him.  "Evallonia!" he cried.  "I had no
notion I was so near it."

"You have read of Evallonia in the English press?"

"Yes, and I have heard a lot about it.  I've met Evallonians too--
all sorts."  He counted on his fingers.  "Nine--ten, including
Prince John."

"Prince John!  Ah, you saw him at Lady Lamancha's party."

"I saw him two years before that in Scotland, and had a good deal
to do with him.  With the others, too.  I can tell you who they
were, for I'm not likely to forget them.  There were six
Republicans--Mastrovin, Dedekind, Rosenbaum, Ricci, Calaman, and
one whose name I never knew--a round-faced fellow in spectacles.
There were three Monarchists--Count Casimir Muresco, Doctor Jagon
and Prince Odalchini."

The tall man carefully closed the window, and sat down again.  When
he spoke it was in a low voice.

"You know some very celebrated people.  I think I can place you, Mr
Galt.  You are called Jaikie, are you not, by your friends?  Two
years ago you performed a very notable exploit, which resulted in
the saving of several honest men and the confounding of some who
were not so honest.  That story is famous in certain circles.  I
have laughed over it often, not dreaming that one day I should meet
the hero."

Jaikie shifted nervously, for praise made him unhappy.  "Oh, I
didn't do anything much.  It was principally Alison.  But what has
gone wrong with Evallonia?  I've been expecting ever since to hear
that the Monarchists had kicked out Mastrovin and his lot, but the
whole thing seems to have fizzled."

Mr Glynde was regarding him with steady eyes, which even in the dim
light seemed very bright.

"It has not fizzled, but Evallonia at this moment is in a critical
state.  It is no place for a quiet life, but then I do not think
that is what you like. . . .  Mr Galt, will you forgive me if I ask
you a personal question?  Have you any duty which requires your
immediate return home?"

"None.  But I've finished my money.  I have just about enough to
get me back."

"Money is nothing--that can be arranged.  I would ask another
question.  Have you any strong interest in Evallonian affairs?"

"No.  But some of my friends have--Mr Craw, the newspaper man, for
example, and Dougal Crombie, his chief manager."

Mr Glynde brooded.  "You know Mr Craw and Mr Crombie?  Of course
you would.  But you have no prepossession in the matter?  Except an
inclination to back your friends' view?"

"Yes.  I thought Prince John a decent fellow, and I liked the queer
old Monarchist chaps.  Also I greatly disliked Mastrovin and his
crowd.  They tried to bully me."

The other smiled.  "That I am sure was a bad blunder on their
part."  He was silent for a minute, and then he laid a hand on
Jaikie's knee.  "Mr Galt," he said solemnly, "if you continued your
walking-tour to-morrow eastward down the wooded glen, and passed
the frontier--I presume your passport is in order?--you would enter
a strange country.  How strange I have no time to tell you, but I
will say this--it is at the crisis of its destiny and any hour may
see a triumph or a tragedy.  I believe that you might be of some
use in averting tragedy.  You are a young man, and, I fancy, not
indisposed to adventure.  If you go home you will be out of danger
in that happy cosseted world of England.  If you go on, you will
certainly find danger, but you may also find wonderful things for
which danger is a cheap price.  How do you feel about it?"

Jaikie felt many things.  Now he knew why all day he had had that
curious sense of expectation.  There was a queer little flutter at
his heart.

"I don't know," he said.  "It's all rather sudden.  I should want
to hear more about it."

"You shall.  You shall hear everything before you take any step
which is irrevocable.  If you will make one day's march into
Evallonia, I will arrange that the whole situation is put honestly
before you. . . .  But no!  I have a conscience.  I can foretell
what you will decide, and I have no right even to bring you within
the possibility of that decision, for it will mean danger--it may
even mean death.  You are too young to gamble with."

"I think," said Jaikie, "I should like to put my nose inside
Evallonia just to say I'd been there.  You say I can come back if I
don't like it.  Where's that little coin of yours?  It sent me out
here, and it may as well decide what I do next."

"Sportsman," said Mr Glynde.  He produced the stater and handed it
to Jaikie, who spun it--"Heads go on, tails go home."  But owing
to the dim light, or perhaps to sleepy eyes, he missed his catch,
and the coin rolled on the floor.  He took the lamp to look for it,
and behold it was wedged upright in a crack in the board--neither
heads nor tails.

Mr Glynde laughed merrily.  "Apparently the immortal Gods will have
no part in this affair.  I don't blame them, for Evallonia is a
nasty handful.  The omens on the whole point to home.  Good night,
Mr Galt.  We shall no doubt meet in England."

"I'll sleep on it," said Jaikie.  "If I decide to go on a little
farther, what do I do?"

"You will reach Tarta by midday, and just beyond the bridge you
will see a gipsy-looking fellow, short but very square, with
whiskers and earrings and a white hat with 'Cirque Doré'
embroidered on it in scarlet.  That is Luigi, my chief fiddler.
You will ask him the way to the Cirque, and he will reply in
French, which I think you understand, that he knows a better
restaurant.  After that you will be in his charge.  Only I beg of
you to keep your mind unbiased by what I have said, and let sleep
give you your decision.  Like Cromwell I am a believer in
Providences, and since that wretched stater won't play the game,
you must wait for some other celestial guidance."

He opened the casement, spoke a word in an unknown tongue, and a
heavy body stirred in the dust below.  Then he stepped lightly into
the velvet darkness, and there followed a heaving and shuffling
which presently died away.  When a minute later the moon topped the
hill, the little street was an empty silver alley.



II


THE HOUSE OF THE FOUR WINDS


The night brought no inspiration to Jaikie, for his head was no
sooner on his chaff-filled pillow than he seemed to be awake in
broad daylight.  But the morning decided him.  There had been an
early shower, the dust was laid in the streets, and every cobble of
the side-walk glistened.  From the hills blew a light wind, bearing
a rooty fragrance of pine and moss and bracken.  A delicious smell
of hot coffee and new bread ascended from below; cats were taking
their early airing; the vintner opposite, who had a face like a
sun, was having a slow argument with the shoemaker; a pretty girl
with a basket on her arm was making eyes at a young forester in
velveteen breeches and buckskin leggings; a promising dog-fight was
in progress near the bridge, watched by several excited boys; the
sky above had the soft haze which promises a broiling day.

Jaikie felt hungry both for food and enterprise.  The morning's
freshness was like a draught of spring water, and every sense was
quick and perceptive.  He craned his head out of the window, and
looked back along the way he had come the night before.  It showed
a dull straight vista between trees.  He looked eastward, and
there, beyond the end of the village, the world dropped away, and
he was looking at the blue heavens and a most appetising crook in
the road, which seemed to hesitate, like a timid swimmer, before
plunging downwards.  There could be no question about it.  On this
divinest of mornings he refused dully to retrace his steps.  He
would descend for one day into Evallonia.

He breakfasted on fried eggs and brook trout, paid a diminutive
bill, buckled on his knapsack, and before ten o'clock had left
Kremisch behind him.  The road was all that it had promised.  It
wound through an upland meadow with a strong blue-grey stream to
keep it company, and every now and then afforded delectable
glimpses of remote and shining plains.  The hills shouldered it
friendlily, hills with wide green rides among the firs and
sometimes a bald nose of granite.  Jaikie had started out with his
mind chiefly on Randal Glynde, that suddenly-discovered link with
Alison.  Evallonia and its affairs did not interest him, or Mr
Glynde's mysterious summons to adventure.  His meditations during
recent weeks had been so much on his own land and the opportunities
which it might offer to a deserving young man that he was not
greatly concerned with the doings of foreigners, even though some
of them were his acquaintances.  But he was strongly interested in
Mr Glynde.  He had never met anybody quite like him, so cheerful
and secure in his absurdities.  The meeting with him had rolled
from Jaikie's back many of the cares of life.  The solemnity with
which he had proposed a visit to Evallonia seemed in the retrospect
to be out of the picture and therefore negligible.  Mr Glynde was
an apostle of fantasy and his seriousness was itself a comedy.  The
memory of him harmonised perfectly with this morning world, which
with every hundred yards was unveiling a new pageant of delight.

Presently he forgot even Mr Glynde in the drama of the roadside.
There was a pool in the stream, ultramarine over silver sand, with
a very big trout in it--not less than three pounds in weight.
There was a bird which looked like a dipper, but was not a dipper.
There was a hawk in the sky, a long-winged falcon of a kind he had
never seen before.  And on a boulder was perched--rarity of
rarities--an unmistakable black redstart. . . .  And then the glen
seemed to lurch forward and become a defile, down which the stream
dropped in a necklace of white cascades.  At the edge was a group
of low buildings, and out of them came two men carrying rifles.

Jaikie looked with respect at the first Evallonians he had seen on
their native heath.  They were small men with a great breadth of
shoulder, and broad good-humoured countenances--a typical compound,
he thought, of Slav and Teuton.  But their manner belied their
faces, for they were almost truculent, as if they had been soured
by heavy and unwelcome duties.  They examined everything in his
pack and his pockets, they studied his passport with profound
suspicion, and they interrogated him closely in German, which he
followed with difficulty.  Several times they withdrew to consult
together; once they retired into the block-house, apparently to
look up some book of regulations.  It was the better part of an
hour before they allowed him to pass.  Then something ingenuous in
Jaikie's face made them repent of their doubts.  They grimaced and
shook hands with him, and shouted Grüss Gott till he had turned a
corner.

"Evallonia is a nervous country," thought Jaikie.  "Lucky I had
nothing contraband on me, or I should be bankrupt."

After that the defile opened into a horseshoe valley, with a few
miles ahead the spires of a little town.  He saw the loop of a
river, of which the stream he had followed must be a tributary.  On
the north side was something which he took for a hill, but which
closer inspection revealed to be a dwelling.  It stood high and
menacing, with the town huddled up to it, built of some dark stone
which borrowed no colour from the bright morning.  On three sides
it seemed to be bounded by an immense park, for he saw great spaces
of turf and woodland which contrasted with the chessboard tillage
of other parts of the plain.

A peasant was carrying hay from a roadside meadow.  Jaikie pointed
to the place and asked its name.

The man nodded.  "Yes, Tarta."

"And the castle?"

At first the man puzzled; then he smiled.  He pronounced a string
of uncouth vocables.  Then in halting German:  "It is the great
Schloss.  I have given you its name.  It means the House of the
Four Winds."

As Jaikie drew nearer the town he saw the reason why it was so
called.  Tarta stood in the mouth of a horseshoe and three glens
debouched upon it, his own from the west and two other sword-cuts
from the north and south.  It was clear that the castle must be a
very temple of Aeolus.  From three points of the compass the winds
would whistle down the mountain gullies, and on the east there was
no shelter from the devilments bred in the Asian steppes.

Before noon he was close to the confines of the little town.  His
stream had ceased to be a mountain torrent, and had expanded into
broad lagoons, and just ahead was its junction with the river.
Over the latter there was a high-backed bridge flanked by guard-
houses, and beyond a jumble of masonry which promised narrow old-
world streets.  The castle, seen at closer range, was more
impressive than ever.  It hung over the town like a thundercloud,
but a thundercloud from which the lightnings had fled, for it had a
sad air of desolation.  No flag flew from its turrets, no smoke
issued from its many chimneys, the few windows in the great black
sides which rose above the streets were like blind eyes.  Yet its
lifelessness made a strong appeal to Jaikie's fancy.  This bustling
little burgh under the shadow of a mediæval relic was like a living
thing tied to a corpse.  But was it really a corpse?  He guessed at
its vast bulk stretching northward into its wild park.  It might
have turned a cold shoulder on Tarta and yet within its secret
demesne be furiously alive.  Meantime it belied its name, for not a
breath of wind stirred in the sultry noon.  Somewhere beyond the
bridge must be Luigi, the chief fiddler of the Cirque Doré.  He
hoped that Luigi would take him where he could get a long drink.

He was to get the drink, but not from Luigi's hands.  On the side
of the bridge farthest from the town the road passed through a
piece of rough parkland, perhaps the common pasturage of the
mediæval township.  Here a considerable crowd had gathered, and
Jaikie pressed forward to discover the reason of it.  Down the road
from Tarta a company of young men was marching, with the obvious
intention of making camp in the park; indeed, certain forerunners
had already set up a grove of little shelter-tents.  They were
remarkable young men, for they carried themselves with disciplined
shoulders, and yet with the free swing from the hips of the
mountaineer.  Few of them were tall, but their leanness gave the
impression of a good average height, and they certainly looked
amazingly hard and fit.  Jaikie, accustomed to judge physique on
the Rugby field, was impressed by their light-foot walk and their
easy carriage.  They were not in the least like the Wandervögel
whom he had met on many German roads, comfortable sunburnt folk out
for a holiday.  These lads were in serious training, and they had
some purpose other than amusement.

As they passed, the men in the crowd saluted by raising the left
hand and the women waved their handkerchiefs.  In the rear rode a
young man, a splendid figure on a well-bred flea-bitten roan.  The
rank-and-file wore shorts and green shirts open at the neck, but
the horseman had breeches and boots and a belted green tunic, while
a long hunting-knife swung at his middle.  He was a tall fellow
with thick fair hair, a square face and dark eyebrows--a face with
which Jaikie was familiar in very different surroundings.

Jaikie, in the front row of the crowd, was so overcome with
amazement that his left hand remained unraised and he could only
stare.  The horseman caught sight of him, and he too registered
surprise, from which he instantly recovered.  He spoke a word to
the ranks; a man fell out, and beckoned Jaikie to follow.  The
other spectators fell back from him as from a leper, and he and his
warder followed the horse's tail into the open space, where the
rest were drawing up in front of the tents.

Then the horseman turned to him.

"Salute," he said.  Jaikie's arm shot up obediently.

The leader cast an eye over the ranks, and bade them stand easy and
then fall out.  He dismounted, flinging his bridle to an orderly.
"Follow me," he said to Jaikie in English, and led him to a spot on
the river-bank, where a larger tent had been set up.  Two lads were
busy there with kit and these he dismissed.  Then he turned to
Jaikie with a broad grin.  "What on earth are you doing here?" he
asked.

"Give me a drink first, Ashie," was the answer.

The young man dived into the tent and produced a bottle of white
wine, a bottle of a local mineral water, and two tumblers.  The two
clinked glasses.  Then he gave Jaikie a cigarette.  "Now," he said,
"what's your story?"

"I have been across half Europe," said Jaikie.  "I must have
tramped about five hundred miles.  My money's done, and I go home
to-morrow, but I thought I'd have a look inside Evallonia first.
But what are YOU doing, Ashie?  Is it Boy Scouts or a revolution?"

The other smiled and did not at once reply.  That was a mannerism
which the University of Cambridge had taught him, for when Count
Paul Jovian (he had half a dozen other Christian names which we may
neglect) entered St. Mark's he had been too loquacious.  He and a
cousin had shared lodgings, and at first they were not popular.
They had an unpleasant trick of being easily insulted, talking
about duels, and consequently getting their ears boxed.  When they
migrated within the College walls, the dislike of the cousin had
endured, but Count Paul began to make friends.  Finally came a
night when the cousin's trousers were removed and used to decorate
the roof, as public evidence of dislike, while Paul was unmolested.
That occasion gave him his nickname, for he was christened Asher by
a piously brought-up contemporary, the tribe of Asher having,
according to the Book of Judges, "abode in its breaches."  "Ashie"
he had remained from that day.

Jaikie had begun by disliking him, he was so noisy and strange and
flamboyant.  But Count Paul had a remarkable gift of adapting
himself to novel conditions.  Presently his exuberance quieted
down, he became more sparing in speech, he developed a sense of
humour and laboured to acquire the idiom of their little society.
In his second year he was indistinguishable from the ordinary
English undergraduate.  He had a pretty turn of speed, but it was
found impossible to teach him the Rugby game; at boxing too he was
a complete duffer; but he was a brilliant fencer, and he knew all
that was to be known about a horse.  Indeed, it was in connection
with horses that Jaikie first came to like him.  A groom from a
livery stable lost his temper with a hireling, who was badly bitted
and in a fractious temper.  The Count's treatment of the case
rejoiced Jaikie's heart.  He shot the man into the gutter, eased
the bit, and quieted the animal with a curious affectionate
gentleness.  After that the two became friends, in spite of the
fact that the Count's taste for horses and hunting took him into a
rather different set.  They played together in a cricket eleven of
novices called the "Cads of all Nations," who for a week of one
long vacation toured the Midlands, and were soundly beaten by every
village team.

There was a tough hardihood about the man which made Jaikie invite
him more than once to be his companion in some of his more risky
enterprises--invitations regretfully refused, for some business
always took Ashie home.  That home Jaikie knew to be in Eastern
Europe, but he had not associated him with Evallonia.  There was
also an extreme innocence.  He wanted to learn everything about
England, and took Jaikie as his mentor, believing that in him he
had found the greatest common measure of the British people.
Whether he learned much may be doubted, for Jaikie was too little
of a dogmatist to be a good instructor.  But they slipped into a
close friendship, and rubbed the corners off each other's minds.

"I know what I'm doing," said Ashie at last; "but I am not quite
sure where it will finish.  But that's a long story.  You're a
little devil, Jaikie, to come here at the tag-end of your holiday.
If you had come a month ago we might have had all sorts of fun."

He had relapsed into the manner of the undergraduate, but there was
something in him now which made it a little absurd.  For the figure
opposite Jaikie was not the agreeable and irresponsible companion
he had known.  Ashie looked desperately foreign, without a hint of
Cambridge and England; bigger too, more mature, and rather
formidable.  The thick dark eyebrows in combination with the fair
hair had hitherto given his appearance a touch of comedy; now the
same brows bent above the grey eyes had something in them martial
and commanding.  Rob Roy was more of a man on his native heath than
on the causeways of Glasgow.

"If you can arrange to stay here for a little," said Ashie, "I
promise to show you life."

"Thank you very much, but I can't.  I must be off home to-morrow--a
week's tramping, and then the train."

"Give me three weeks."

"I'm sorry, but I can't."  Jaikie found it hard to sort out his
feelings, but he was clear that he did not want to dally in
Evallonia.

Ashie's voice became almost magisterial.

"What are you doing here to-day?" he asked.

"I'm lunching with a friend and going back to Kremisch in the
evening."

"Who's your friend?"

"I'm not quite sure of his name."  Jaikie's caution told him that
Mr Glynde might have many aliases.  "He's in a circus."

Ashie laughed--almost in the old light-hearted way.  "Just the kind
of friend you'd have.  The Cirque Doré?  I saw some of the
mountebanks in the streets. . . .  You won't accept my invitation?
I can promise you the most stirring time in your life."

"I wish I could, but--well, it's no use, I can't."

"Then we must part, for I have a lot to do."

"You haven't told me what you're doing."

"No.  Some day I will--in England, if I ever come back to England."

He called one of his scouts, to whom he said something in a strange
tongue.  The latter saluted and waited for Jaikie to follow him.
Ashie gave him a perfunctory handshake--"Good-bye.  Good luck to
you"; and entered his tent.

The boy led Jaikie beyond the encampment, and, with a salute and a
long stare, left him at the entrance to the bridge.  A clock on a
steeple told him that it was a quarter-past twelve, pretty much the
time that Mr Glynde had appointed.  The bridge was almost empty,
for the sight-seers who had followed Ashie's outfit had trickled
back to their midday meals.  Jaikie spent a few minutes looking
over the parapet at the broad waters of the river.  This must be
the Rave, the famous stream which sixty miles on flowed through the
capital city of Melina.  He watched its strong current sweep past
the walls of the great Schloss, which there dropped sheer into it,
before in a wide circuit it formed the western boundary of the
castle park.  What an impregnable fortress, he thought, must have
been this House of the Four Winds in the days before artillery, and
how it must have lorded it over the little burgh under its skirts!

There was a gatehouse on the Tarta side of the bridge, an ancient
crumbling thing bright with advertisements of the Cirque Doré.
Beyond it a narrow street wound under the blank wall of the castle,
ending in a square in which the chief building was a baroque town-
house.  From where Jaikie stood this town-house had an odd
apologetic air, a squat thing dwarfed by the Schloss: like a
dachshund beside a mastiff.  The day was very warm, and he crossed
over from the glare of one side of the street to the shadow of the
other.  The place was almost empty, most of the citizens being
doubtless engaged with food behind shuttered windows.  Jaikie was
getting hungry, and so far he had looked in vain for Mr Glynde's
Luigi.  But as he moved towards the central square a man came out
of an entry, and, stopping suddenly to light a cigarette, almost
collided with him.  Jaikie saw a white cap and scarlet lettering,
and had a glimpse of gold earrings and a hairy face.  He remembered
his instructions.

"Can you show me the way to the Cirque Doré?" he asked.

The man grinned.  "I will lead you to a better restaurant," he said
in French with a villainous accent.  He held out his hand and shook
Jaikie's warmly, as if he had found a long-lost friend.  Then he
gripped him by the arm and poured forth a torrent of not very
intelligible praise of the excellence of the cuisine to which he
was guiding him.

Jaikie found himself hustled up the street and pulled inside a
little dark shop, which appeared to be a combination of a bird-
fancier's and a greengrocer's.  There was nobody there, so they
passed through it into a court strewn with decaying vegetables and
through a rickety door into a lane, also deserted.  After that they
seemed to thread mazes of mean streets at a pace which made the
sweat break on Jaikie's forehead, till they found themselves at the
other end of the town, where it ebbed away into shacks and market-
gardens.

"I am very hungry," said Jaikie, who saw his hopes of luncheon
disappearing.

"The Signor must have patience," was the answer.  "He has still a
little journey before him, but at the end of it he will have honest
food."

Luigi was an adept at under-statement.  He seemed to wish to escape
notice, which was easy at this stagnant hour of the day.  Whenever
anyone appeared he became still as a graven image, with an
arresting hand on Jaikie's arm.  They chose such cover as was
available, and any track they met they crossed circumspectly.  The
market-gardens gave place to vineyards, which were not easy to
thread, and then to wide fields of ripe barley, hot as the Sahara.
Jaikie was in good training, but this circus-man Luigi, though he
looked plump and soft, was also in no way distressed, never
slackening pace and never panting.  By and by they entered a wood
of saplings which gave them a slender shade.  At the far end of it
was a tall palisade of chestnut stakes, lichened and silvery with
age.  "Up with you," said Luigi, and gave Jaikie a back which
enabled him to grasp the top and swing himself over.  To his
annoyance the Italian followed him unaided, supple as a monkey.

"Rest and smoke," he said.  "There is now no reason for hurry
except the emptiness of your stomach."

They rested for ten minutes.  Behind them was the palisade they had
crossed, and in front of them glades of turf, and wildernesses of
fern and undergrowth, and groves of tall trees.  It was like the
New Forest, only on a bigger scale.

"It is a noble place," said Luigi, waving his cigarette.  "From
here it is seven miles to Zutpha, where is a railway.  Tarta in old
days was only, so to say, the farmyard behind the castle.  From
Zutpha the guests of the princes of this house were driven in great
coaches with outriders.  Now there are few guests, and instead of a
coach-and-eight a Ford car.  It is the way of the world."

When they resumed their journey it was at an easier pace.  They
bore to their left, and presently came in view of what had once
been a formal garden on a grandiose scale.  Runnels had been led
from the river, and there was a multitude of stone bridges and
classic statuary and rococo summer-houses.  Now the statues were
blotched with age, the bridges were crumbling, and the streams were
matted beds of rushes.  Beyond, rising from a flight of terraces,
could be seen the huge northern façade of the castle, as blank as
the side it showed to Tarta.  It had been altered and faced with a
white stone a century ago, but the comparative modernity of this
part made its desolation more conspicuous than that of the older
Gothic wings.  What should have been gay with flowers and sun-
blinds stood up in the sunlight as grim as a deserted factory; and
that, thought Jaikie, is grimmer than any other kind of ruin.

Luigi did not take him up the flights of empty terraces.  Beyond
the formal garden he turned along a weedy path which flanked a
little lake.  On one side was the Cyclopean masonry of the terrace
wall, and, where it bent at an angle, cloaked by a vast magnolia,
they came suddenly upon a little paved court shaded by a trellis.
It was cool, and it was heavily scented, for on one side was a
thicket of lemon verbena.  A table had been set for luncheon, and
at it sat two men, waited on by a foot-man in knee breeches and a
faded old coat of blue and silver.

"You are not five minutes behind time," said the elder of the two.
"Anton," he addressed the servant, "take the other gentleman
indoors and see to his refreshment." . . .  To Jaikie he held out
his hand.  "We have met before, Mr Galt.  I have the honour to
welcome you to my poor house.  Mr Glynde I think you already know."

"You expected me?" Jaikie asked in some surprise.

"I was pretty certain you would come," said Mr Glynde.

Jaikie saw before him that Prince Odalchini whom two years ago he
had known as one of the tenants of the Canonry shooting of
Knockraw.  The Prince's hair was a little greyer, his well-bred
face a little thinner, and his eyes a little darker round the rims.
But in the last burned the same fire of a gentle fanaticism.  He
was exquisitely dressed in a suit of white linen with a tailed
coat, and shirt and collar of turquoise-blue silk--blue and white
being the Odalchini liveries.  Mr Randal Glynde had shed the
fantastic garments of the previous night, but he had not returned
to the modishness of his English clothes; he wore an ill-cut suit
of some thin grey stuff that made him look like a commis-voyageur
in a smallish way of business, and to this part he had arranged his
hair and beard to conform.  To his outfit a Guards tie gave a touch
of startling colour.  "We will not talk till we have eaten," said
the Prince.  "Mr Galt must have picked up an appetite between here
and Kremisch."

Jaikie had one of the most satisfying meals of his career.  There
was an omelet, a dish of trout, and such peaches as he had never
tasted before.  He had acquired a fresh thirst during his journey
with Luigi, and this was assuaged by a white wine which seemed to
be itself scented with lemon verbena, a wine in slim bottles beaded
with the dew of the ice-cellar.  He was given a cup of coffee made
by the Prince's own hands, and a long fat cigarette of a brand
which the Prince had specially made for him in Cairo.

"Luigi spoke the truth," said Mr Glynde smiling, "when he said that
he would conduct you to a better restaurant."

The footman withdrew and silence fell.  Bees wandered among the
heliotrope and verbena and pots of sapphire agapanthus, and even
that shady place felt the hot breath of the summer noon.  Sleep
would undoubtedly have overtaken Jaikie and Mr Glynde, but for the
vigour of Prince Odalchini, who seemed, like a salamander, to draw
life and sustenance from the heat.  His high-pitched, rather
emotional voice kept his auditors wakeful.  "I will explain to
you," he told Jaikie, "what you cannot know or have only heard in a
perversion.  I take up the history of Evallonia after Prince John
sailed from your Scotch loch."

He took a long time over his exposition, and as he went on Jaikie
found his interest slowly awakening.  The cup of the abominations
of the Republican Government had apparently long ago been filled.
Evallonia was ready to spew them out, but unfortunately the
Monarchists were not quite ready to take their place.  This time it
was not trouble with other Powers or with the League of Nations.
Revolutions had become so much the fashion in Europe that they were
taken as inevitable, whether their purpose was republic, monarchy,
or dictatorship.  The world was too weary to argue about the merits
of constitutional types, and the nations were too cumbered with
perplexed economics to have any desire to meddle in the domestic
affairs of their neighbours.  Aforetime the Monarchists had feared
the intervention of the Powers or some finding of the League, and
therefore they had sought the mediation of British opinion.  Now
their troubles were of a wholly different kind.

Prince Odalchini explained.  Communism was for the moment a dead
cause in Evallonia, and Mastrovin and his friends had as much
chance of founding a Soviet republic as of plucking down the moon.
Mastrovin indeed dared not show himself in public, and the present
administration of his friends staggered along, corrupt,
incompetent, deeply unpopular.  It would collapse at the slightest
pressure.  But after that?

"Everywhere in the world," said the Prince, "there is now an
uprising of youth.  It does not know what it seeks.  It did not
know the hardships of war.  But it demands of life some hope and
horizon, and it is determined to have the ordering of things in its
hands.  It is conscious of its ignorance and lack of discipline, so
it seeks to inform and discipline itself, and therein lies its
danger."

"Ricci," he went on.  "You remember him in the Canonry?--a youngish
man like a horse-dealer.  At that time he was a close ally of the
Republican Government, but eighteen months ago he became estranged
from it--he and Count Jovian, who was not with the others in
Scotland.  Well, Ricci had an American wife of enormous wealth, and
with the aid of her money he set out to stir up our youth.  He had
an ally in the Jovian I have mentioned, who was a futile vain man,
like your Justice Shallow in Shakespeare, easily flattered and but
little respected, but with a quick brain for intrigue.  These two
laid the foundations of a body called Juventus, which is now the
strongest thing in Evallonia.  They themselves were rogues, but
they enlisted many honest helpers, and soon, like the man in the
Arabian Nights, they had raised a jinn which they could not
control.  Jovian died a year ago--he was always sick--and Ricci is
no longer the leader.  But the thing itself marches marvellously.
It has caught the imagination of our people and fired their pride.
Had we an election, the Juventus candidates would undoubtedly sweep
the board.  As it is, it contains all the best of Evallonian youth,
who give up to it their leisure, their ambition and their scanty
means.  It is in its way a noble thing, for it asks only for
sacrifice, and offers no bribes.  It is, so to speak, a new Society
of Jesus, sworn to utter obedience.  But, good or ill, it has most
damnably spiked the guns of us Royalists."

Jaikie asked why.

"Because it is arrogant, and demands that whatever is done for
Evallonia it alone shall do it.  The present Government must go,
and at once, for it is too gross a scandal.  If we delay, there
will be a blind revolution of the people themselves.  You will say--
let Juventus restore Prince John.  Juventus will do nothing of the
kind, since Prince John is not its own candidate.  If we restore
him, Juventus will become anti-Monarchist.  What then will it do?
I reply that it does not yet know, but there is a danger that it
may set up one of its own people as dictator.  That would be
tragic, for in the first place Evallonia does not need or desire a
dictator, being Monarchist by nature, and in the second place
Juventus does not want a dictatorship either.  It is Nationalist,
but not Fascist.  Yet the calamity may happen."

"Has Juventus any leader who could fill the bill?" Jaikie asked.

The Prince shook his head.  "I do not think so--therefore its
action would be only to destroy and obstruct, not to build.  Ricci
with his wife's millions is now discredited; they have used him and
cast him aside.  There are some of the very young with power I am
told--particularly a son of Jovian's."

"Is his name Paul?" Jaikie asked, and was told yes.

"I know him," he said.  "He was at Cambridge with me.  I have just
seen him, for about two hours ago he stood me a drink."

The Prince in his surprise upset the coffee-pot, and even the
sophisticated eyes of Mr Glynde opened a little wider.

"You know Paul Jovian?  That is miraculous, Mr Galt.  Will you
permit me to speak a word in private with Mr Glynde?  There are
some matters still too secret even for your friendly ears."

The two withdrew and left Jaikie alone in the alcove among bees and
butterflies and lemon verbena.  He was a little confused in his
mind, for after a solitary month he had suddenly strayed into a
place where he seemed to know rather too many people.  Embarrassing
people, all of whom pressed him to stay longer.  He did not much
like their country.  It was too hot for him, too scented and
airless.  He was not in the least interested in the domestic
affairs of Evallonia, either the cantrips of Ashie or the solemn
intrigues of the Prince.  It was not his world; that was a cool,
bracing upland a thousand miles away, for which he had begun to
feel acutely homesick.  Alison would soon be back in the Canonry,
and he must be there to meet her.  He felt that for the moment he
was fed up with foreign travel.

The two men returned, and sat down before him with an air of
purpose.

"Where did you find Count Paul?" the Prince asked.

"On the Kremisch side of the Tarta bridge.  He was going into camp
with a detachment of large-sized Boy Scouts."

"You know him well?"

"Pretty well.  We have been friends ever since his first year.  I
like him--at least I liked him at Cambridge, but here he seems a
rather different sort of person.  He wanted me to stay on in
Evallonia--to stay for three weeks."

The two exchanged glances.

"So!" said the Prince.  "And your answer?"

"I refused.  He didn't seem particularly well pleased."

"Mr Galt, we also make you that proposal.  Will you be my guest
here in Evallonia for a little--perhaps for three weeks--perhaps
longer?  I believe that you can be of incalculable value to an
honest cause.  I cannot promise success--that is not commanded by
mortals--but I can promise you an exciting life."

"That was what I said to you last night," said Mr Glynde smiling.
"My little stater would give you no guidance, but the fact that you
have ventured into Evallonia encourages me to hope."

Jaikie at the moment had no desire for excitement.  He felt limp
and drowsy and oppressed; the Prince's luncheon had been too good,
and this scented nook choked him; he wanted to be somewhere where
he could breathe fresh air.  Evallonia was wholly devoid of
attractions.

"I don't think so," he said.  "I'm tremendously honoured that you
should want me, but I shouldn't be any use to you, and I must get
home."

"You are not to be moved?" said Mr Glynde.

Jaikie shook his head.  "I've had enough of the continent of
Europe."

"I understand," said Mr Glynde.  "I too sometimes feel that
satiety, and think I must go home."  He turned to the Prince.  "I
doubt if we shall persuade Mr Galt.  I wish Casimir were here.
Where, by the way, is he?"

The Prince replied with a word which sounded to Jaikie like
"Unnutz," a word which woke a momentary interest in his lethargic
mind.

"What then do you propose to do?"  The Prince turned to him.

"Go back to Kremisch to-night, sleep there and set off home to-
morrow."

"What must be must be.  But I do not think it wise for you to start
yet awhile.  Let us go indoors, and I will show you some of the few
household gods which poverty has left me."

Jaikie spent an hour or two pleasantly in the cool chambers of the
great house.  The place was shabby but not neglected, and there
were treasures there which, judiciously placed on the market, might
well have restored the Odalchini fortunes.  He looked at long lines
of forbidding family portraits; at a little room so full of
masterpieces that it was a miniature Salle Carrée; at one of the
finest collections of armour in the world; and at a wonderful array
of sporting trophies, for the Odalchinis had been famous game-
shots.  He was given tea at a little table in the hall quite in the
English fashion.  But very soon he became restless.  The sun was
getting low, and he had a considerable distance to walk before
supper.

"You had better go first to the Cirque Doré," said Mr Glynde.
"There I will meet you, and show you the way out of the town.  You
have been in dangerous territory, Mr Galt, and must be circumspect
in leaving it.  No, we cannot go together.  I will take a different
road and meet you there.  Luigi will guide you.  You will cross the
park by the way you came, and Luigi will be waiting for you outside
the pale."

"I am sorry," said the Prince.  He shook hands with so regretful a
face, and his old eyes were so solemn that Jaikie had a moment of
compunction.  When he left the castle the cool of the evening was
beginning, and the twilight scents came freshly and pleasantly to
his nostrils.  This was a better place than he had thought, and he
felt more vigorous and enterprising.  He had the faintest twinge of
regret about his decision.  After all, there was nothing to call
him home, for there would be no Dickson McCunn there yet awhile,
and no Dougal, and perhaps no Alison.  But there would be the
Canonry, and he fixed his mind upon its delectable glens as he
retraced his path of the morning.  One of Jaikie's endowments was
an almost perfect instinct for direction, and he struck the high
chestnut pale pretty much at the spot where he had first crossed
it.

Getting over without Luigi's help was a difficult business, and,
Jaikie's energy being wholly employed in the task, he did not
trouble to prospect the land. . . .  He tumbled over the top and
dropped into what seemed to be a crowd of people.

Strong hands gripped him.  A cloth was skilfully wound round his
face, blinding his eyes and blanketing his voice.  Another wrapped
his arms to his side, and a third bound his legs.  He struggled,
but his sense of the physical superiority of his assailants was so
great that he soon gave it up; he was like a thin rabbit in the
clutch of an enormous gamekeeper.  Yet the hands were not unkindly,
and his bandages, though effective, were not painful.

He was carried swiftly along for a few minutes and then placed in
some kind of car.  Somebody sat down beside him.  The car was
started, and bumped for a little along very rough roads. . . .
Then it came to a highway and moved fast. . . .  Jaikie had by this
time collected his thoughts, and they were wrathful.  His first
alarm had gone, for he reflected that there was no one likely to
mean mischief to him.  He was pretty certain what had happened.
This was Prince Odalchini's way of detaining an unwilling guest.
Well, he would presently have a good deal to say to the Prince and
to Mr Glynde.

The car slowed down, and his companion, whoever he was, began with
deft hands to undo his bonds.  First he loosed his legs.  Then,
almost with the same movement, he released his arms and drew the
bandages from his face.  Then he snapped a switch which lit up
dimly the interior of the limousine in which the blinds had been
drawn.

Jaikie found himself looking at the embarrassed face of Ashie.



III


DIVERSIONS OF A MARIONETTE


I


Miss Alison Westwater dropped with a happy sigh beside a bed of
wild strawberries still wet with dew, and proceeded to make a
second breakfast.  It was still early morning--not quite seven
o'clock--but she had been walking ever since half-past five, when
she had broken her fast on a cup of coffee and a last-night's roll
provided by a friendly chambermaid.  She had left the highway,
which, switch-backing from valley to valley, took the traveller to
Italy, and had taken a forest track which after a mile or two among
pines came out on an upland meadow, and led to a ridge, the spur of
a high mountain, from which the kingdoms of the earth could be
surveyed.  The sky was not the pale turquoise bowl which in her own
country heralded a perfect summer day, but an intense sapphire; the
shadows were also blue, and the sunshine where it fell was a
blinding essential light without colour, so that the grass looked
like snowdrifts.  The air had an aromatic freshness which stung the
senses, and Alison drew great breaths of it till her throat was as
cold as if she had been drinking spring water.

This was her one satisfactory time in the day.  The rest of her
waking hours were devoted to a routine which seemed void alike of
mirth or reason.  Her father's neuritis had almost gone, but so had
his good humour, and it was a very peevish old gentleman that she
accompanied in pottering walks by the lake-side or in aimless motor
drives on blinding hot highways.  Lord Rhynns was particular about
his food, and the hotel cuisine did not please him, so he was in
the habit of sampling, without much success, whatever Unnutz
produced in the way of café and konditorei.  He was also particular
about his clothes, and since he dressed always in the elder fashion
of tight trousers, coloured waistcoat, stiff collar and four-in-
hand tie, he was generally warm and correspondingly irascible.  Her
mother did not appear till after midday, and required a good deal
of coddling, for, having been driven out of her accustomed beat,
she found herself short of acquaintances and quite unable to plan
out her days.  One curious consequence was that both, who had
habituated themselves to a life of Continental vagrancy, suddenly
began to long passionately for home.  His lordship remembered that
the shooting season would soon begin in the Canonry, and was full
of sad reminiscences of the exploits of his youth, while to her
ladyship came visions of the cool chambers and the smooth and
comforting ritual of Castle Gay.

"I am a marionette," Alison had written to Jaikie.  "I move at the
jerk of a string, and it isn't my parents that pull it.  It's this
ghastly place, which has invented a régime for the idle middle-
classes of six nations.  I defy even you to break loose from it.  I
do the same things and make the same remarks and wear the same
clothes every day at the proper hour.  I'm a marionette and so are
the other people--quite nice they are, and well-mannered, and
friendly, but as dead as salted herrings.  A good old-fashioned
bounder would be a welcome change.  Or a criminal."

As she sat on the moss she remembered this sentence--and something
else.  Unnutz was mainly villas and hotels, but there was an old
village as a nucleus--wooden houses built on piles on the lake
shore, and one or two narrow twisting streets with pumpkins drying
on the shingle roofs.  There was a bathing-place there very
different from the modish thing on the main promenade, a place
where you dived in a hut under a canvas curtain into deep green
water, and could swim out to some fantastic little rock islets.
She had managed once or twice to bathe there, and yesterday
afternoon she had slipped off for an hour and had had a long swim
by herself.  Coming back she had recognised in a corner of the old
village the first face of an acquaintance she had met since she
came to Unnutz.  Not an acquaintance exactly, for he had never seen
her.  But she remembered well the shaggy leonine head, the heavy
brows and the forward thrust of the jaw.  She had watched those
features two years ago during some agonised minutes in the library
of Castle Gay, till Mr Dickson McCunn had adroitly turned melodrama
into farce, and she was not likely to forget them.  She remembered
the name too--Mastrovin, the power behind the Republican Government
of Evallonia.  Had not Jaikie told her that he was the most
dangerous underground force in Europe?

What was this dynamic personage doing in a dull little Tirolese
health resort?  Was her wish to be granted, and their drab society
enlivened by a criminal?

The thought only flitted across her mind, for she had other things
to think about.  She must make the most of her holiday, for by
half-past ten she must be back to join her father in his petit
déjeuner on the hotel verandah.  Usually she had the whole hillside
to herself, but this morning she had seen a car on the road which
led to the high pastures.  It had been empty, standing at the foot
of one of the tracks which climbed upward through the pines.
Someone else had her taste for early mornings in the hills.  It had
annoyed her to think that her sanctuary was not inviolable.  She
hoped that the intruder, whoever he or she was, was short in the
wind and would not get higher than the wood.

She got up from her lair among the strawberries and wandered across
the meadow, where every now and then outcrops of rock stuck grey
noses through the flowers.  She had a drink out of an ice-cold
runnel.  She saw a crested tit, a bird which she had never met
before, and screwed her single field-glass into her eye to watch
its movements.  Also she saw a kite high up in the blue, and,
having only once in her life met that type of hawk, regarded him
with a lively interest.  Then she came to a little valley the top
of which was a ravine in the high rocks, and the bottom of which
was muffled in the woods.  There was a woodcutter's cottage here,
wonderfully hidden in a cleft, with the pines on three sides and
one side open to the hill.  Where Alison stood she looked down upon
it directly from above, and could observe the beginning if its
daily life.  She had been here before, and had seen an old woman,
who might have come out of Grimm, carrying pails of water from a
pool in the stream.

Now instead of the old woman there was a young man, presumably her
son.  He came slowly from the cottage and moved to the fringe of
the trees, where a path began its downhill course.  He possessed a
watch, for he twice consulted it, as if he were keeping an
appointment.  His clothes were the ordinary forester's--baggy
trousers of homespun, heavy iron-shod boots, and an aged velveteen
jacket with silver buttons.  He carried himself well, Alison
thought, better than most woodmen, who were apt to be round-
shouldered and slouching.

A second man came out of the wood--also a tall man, but dressed
very differently from the woodcutter, for he wore flannels and a
green Homburg hat.  "My motorist," thought Alison.  "He must know
something about the woods, for the way through them to this cottage
isn't easy to find."

The newcomer behaved oddly.  He took off his hat.  The woodcutter
gave him his hand and he bowed over it with extreme respect.  Then
the woodcutter slipped his arm in his and led him towards the
cottage.

Alison in her perch far above put the glass to her eye and got a
good view of the stranger.  There could be no mistake.  Two years
ago she had sat opposite him at dinner at Castle Gay and at
breakfast at Knockraw.  She recognised the fine shape of his head,
and the face which would have been classically perfect but for the
snub nose.  One did not easily forget Count Casimir Muresco.

But who was the other?  Noblemen with nine centuries of pedigree
behind them do not usually bow over the hands of foresters and
uncover their heads.  She could not see his face, for it was turned
away from her, but before the two entered the cottage she had no
doubt about his identity.  She was being given the back view of the
lawful monarch of Evallonia.

From that moment Alison's boredom vanished like dew in the sun.
She realised that she had stumbled upon the fringe of great
affairs.  What was it that Prince John had said to her at the
dinner at Maurice's?  That Unnutz was not a very good place for a
holiday that summer, that it might be unpleasant, but that, being
English, she would always be free to get away.  That could only
mean that something momentous was going to happen at Unnutz.  What
was Prince John doing disguised as a woodcutter in this remote
and secret hut? . . .  What was Count Casimir, architect of
revolutions, doing there so early in the morning?  Plots were being
hatched, thought the girl in a delicious tremor of excitement.  The
curtain was about to rise on the play, and, unknown to the actors,
she had a seat in a box.

And then suddenly she remembered the face she had seen the
afternoon before in the lakeside alley.  Mastrovin!  He was the
deadly enemy of Count Casimir and the Prince.  He must know, or
suspect, that the Prince was in the neighbourhood.  Casimir
probably knew nothing of Mastrovin's presence.  But she, Alison,
knew.  The thought solemnised her, for such knowledge is as much a
burden as a delight.

Her first impulse was to scramble down the hillside to the cottage,
break in on the conspirators, and tell them what she knew.  But she
did not move, for it occurred to her that she might be more useful,
and get more fun out of the business, if she remained silent.  She
waited for ten minutes till the two men appeared again.  This time
she had a good view of the woodcutter through her glass, and she
recognised the comely and rather heavy countenance of Prince John.
Casmir took a ceremonious leave and started down the track through
the forest.  Alison, who knew all the paths, followed him at a
higher level.  She wanted to discover whether or not his steps had
been dogged.

Alison had taught Jaikie many things, and he had repaid her by
instructing her in some of his own lore.  He had made her almost as
artful and silent a tracker as himself, and under his tuition she
had brought to a high pitch her own fine natural sense of
direction.  Like a swift shadow she flitted through the pines, now
on bare needle-strewn ground, now among tangles of rock and
whortleberry.  The route she took was almost parallel to Casimir's,
but now and then she had to make a circuit to avoid some rocky
dingle, and there were times when she had to cast back or cast
ahead to trace him.  It was rough going in parts, and since Casimir
showed a remarkable turn of speed she had sometimes to slither down
steeps and sometimes to run.  By and by came glimpses of the valley
below, and at last through a thinning of the pines she saw the last
twisting of the hill-path before it debouched on the highway.
Presently she saw the waiting car, and the tracker, being a little
ahead of the tracked, sank down among the whortleberries to await
events.

Casimir appeared, going warily, with an eye on the white strip of
high road.  It was still empty, for the Firnthal does not rise
early.  He reached the car, and examined it carefully, as if he
feared that someone might have tampered with it in his absence.
Satisfied, he took the driver's seat, backed on to the high road,
and set out in the direction of Italy.

Alison observed his doings with only half an eye, for between her
and the car she had seen something which demanded attention.  She
was now some two hundred yards above the road, and the ground
immediately below her was occupied by a little rock-fall much
overgrown with fern and scrub.  There was something among the
bushes which had not been put there by nature.  Her glass showed
her that that something was the head of a man.  It was a bare head,
with grizzled hair and one bald patch at the back, and she knew to
whom it belonged.  Mastrovin was not in Unnutz for the sake of the
excellent sulphur baths or the mountain air.

Alison slipped out of her lair and as noiselessly as she could
crawled to her right along the slope of the hill.  She struck the
path by which Casimir had descended, a path which was, so to speak,
the grand trunk road from the hills, and which a little higher
forked in several directions.  Waiting a moment to get her breath,
she made a hasty bouquet of some blue campanulas and sprigs of
whortleberry and then sauntered down the path, a little flushed, a
little untidy about the hair and wet about the shoes, but on the
whole a creditable specimen of early-rising vigorous maidenhood.

Mastrovin, when she came in sight of him, was descending the hill
and had already reached the high road.  He had covered his head
with a green hat, and wore a dark green suit of breeches and
Norfolk jacket, just like any other tourist in a mountain country.
Alison's whistling caught his ear, and at the foot of the track he
stopped to wait for her.

"Grüss Gott!" he said, forcing his harsh features into amiability.
"I have been looking for a friend.  Have you seen anyone--any man--
up in the woods?  My friend is tall and walks fast, and his clothes
are grey."

One of Alison's accomplishments was that she understood German
perfectly, and spoke it with fluency and a reasonable correctness.
But it occurred to her that it would not be wise to reveal this
talent; so she pretended to follow Mastrovin with difficulty and to
puzzle over one word, and she began to answer in the purest
Ollendorff.

"You are English?" he asked.  "Speak English, please.  I understand
it."

Alison obeyed.  She explained that she had indeed met a man in the
high woods, though she had not specially remarked his clothes.  She
had passed him, and thought that he must have returned soon after,
for she had not seen him on her way down.  She described minutely
the place of meeting--on the right-hand road at the main fork, near
the brow of the hill, and not far from the rock called the Wolf
Crag which looked down on Unnutz--precisely the opposite direction
from the woodcutter's hut.

Mastrovin thanked her with a flourish of his hat.  "I must now to
breakfast," he said.  "There is a gasthaus by the roadside where I
will await my friend, if he is not already there."


II


Usually the two miles to Unnutz were the one black spot in the
morning's walk, for they were flat and dusty and meant a return to
the house of bondage.  But to-day Alison was scarcely conscious of
them, for she was thinking hard, with a flutter at her heart which
was half-painful and half-pleasant.  Prince John was here in
retreat for some purpose, and Count Casimir was in touch with him;
that must mean that things were coming to a head in Evallonia.
Mastrovin, his bitterest enemy, was on the trail of Casimir, and
must know that Prince John was in the neighbourhood.  That meant
trouble.  Her false witness that morning might send Mastrovin on a
wild-goose chase to the wrong part of the forest, but it was very
certain that he must presently discover the Prince's hermitage.
The Prince and Casimir might suspect that their enemies were
looking for them, but they did not know that Mastrovin was in
Unnutz.  She alone knew that, and she must make use of her
knowledge.  Casimir had gone off in the direction of Italy;
therefore she must warn the Prince, and that must be done secretly
when she could be certain that she was not followed.  She had begun
to plan a midnight journey, for happily she had a room giving on a
balcony, from which it would be easy to reach the ground.  To her
surprise she found that she looked forward with no relish to the
prospect; if she had had company it would have been immense fun,
but, being alone, she felt only the weight of a heavy duty.  She
longed passionately for Jaikie.

Entering the hotel by a side door, she changed into something more
like the regulation toilet of Unnutz, and sought her father on the
verandah.  For once Lord Rhynns was in a good humour.

"A little late, my dear," he complained mildly.  "Yes, I have had a
better night.  I am beginning to hope that I have got even with my
accursed affliction."  Then, regarding his daughter with complacent
eyes, he became complimentary.  "You are really a very pretty girl,
Alison, though your clothes are not such as gentlewomen wore in my
young days."  With a surprising touch of sentiment he added, "You
are becoming very like my mother."

Taking advantage of her father's urbanity, Alison broached the
question of going home.

"Presently, my dear.  Another week, I think, should set me right.
Your mother is anxious to leave--a sudden craving for Scotland.  We
shall go for a little to Harriet at Castle Gay--she has been more
than kind about it, and Craw has behaved admirably.  I am told he
has the place very comfortable, and I have always found him conduct
himself like a gentleman.  Money, my dear.  Ample means are not
only the passport to the name of gentility, but they create the
thing itself.  In these days it is not easy for a pauper to
preserve his breeding.

"By the way," he continued, "some friends of ours arrived here this
morning.  They are breakfasting more elaborately than we are in the
salle-à-manger.  The Roylances.  Janet Roylance, you remember, was
old Cousin Alastair Raden's second girl."

"What!" Alison almost shrieked.  It was the best news she could
have got, for now she could share her burden of responsibility.  In
the regrettable absence of Jaikie the Roylances were easily the
next best.

"Yes," her father went on.  "They have been at Geneva, and have
come on here for a holiday.  Sir Archibald, they tell me, is making
a considerable name for himself in politics.  For a young man in
these days he certainly has creditable manners."

His lordship finished his coffee, and announced that he proposed to
go to his sitting-room till luncheon to write letters.  Alison
dutifully accompanied him thither, paid her respects to her mother,
who was also in a more cheerful mood, and then hastened downstairs.
In the big dining-room she found the pair she sought at a table in
one of the windows.  Alison flung herself upon Janet Roylance's
neck.

"You've finished breakfast?  Then come outdoors and smoke.  I know
a quiet corner beside the lake.  I must talk to you at once.  You
blessed angels have been sent by Heaven just at the right moment."

When they were seated where a little half-moon of shrubbery made an
enclave above the blue waters of the Waldersee, Sir Archie offered
Alison a cigarette.

"No, thank you.  I don't smoke.  If I did it would be a pipe, I'm
so sick of the cigarette-puffing hussy.  First of all, what brought
you two here?"

Sir Archie grinned.  "The Conference has adjourned till Bolivia
settles some nice point with Uruguay."

"We came," said Janet, "because we are free people with no plans
and we knew that you were here.  We thought we should find you
moribund with boredom, Allie, but you are radiant.  What has
happened?  Have the parents turned over a new leaf?"

"Papa is quite good and nearly well.  Mamma has actually begun to
crave for Scotland.  There's no trouble at present on the home
front.  But the foreign situation is ticklish.  This place is going
to be the scene of dark doings, and I can't cope with them alone.
That's why I hugged you like a bear.  Have you ever heard of
Evallonia?"

"I have," said Janet, "for I sometimes read the Craw Press."

"We've expected a revolution there," said Sir Archie, "any time
these last two years.  But something seems to have gone wrong with
the timing."

"Well, that has been seen to.  The blow-up must be nearly ready,
and it's going to start in this very place.  Listen to me very
carefully.  The story begins two years ago in Castle Gay."

Briefly but vigorously Alison told the tale of the raid on the
Canonry and the discomfiture by Jaikie and Dickson McCunn of
Mastrovin and his gang.  ("Jaikie?" said Sir Archie.  "That's the
little chap we saw with you at Maurice's?  I was in a scrap
alongside him years ago.  Janet knows the story.  Good stamp of
lad.")  She sketched the personalities of the three Royalists and
the six Republicans, and she touched lightly upon Prince John.  She
described the face seen the afternoon before in the old village,
and her sight that morning of the Prince and Casimir at the
woodcutter's hut.  The drama culminated in Mastrovin squatted like
a partridge in the scrub above Casimir's car.

"Mastrovin!" Sir Archie brooded.  "He was at Geneva as an
Evallonian delegate.  Wonderful face of its kind, but it would make
any English jury bring him in guilty of any crime without leaving
the box.  He was very civil to me.  I thought him a miscreant but a
sportsman, though I wouldn't like to meet him alone on a dark
night.  He looked the kind of chap who wasn't afraid of anything--
except the other Evallonian female.  You remember her, Janet?"

His wife laughed.  "Shall I ever forget her?  You never saw such a
girl, Allie.  A skin like clear amber, and eyes like topazes, and
the most wonderful dark hair.  She dressed always in bright scarlet
and somehow carried it off.  Archie, who as you know is a bit of a
falconer, remembered that in the seventeenth century there was a
hawk called the Blood-red Rook of Turkey, so we always called her
that.  She was a Countess Araminta Some-thing-or-other."

Alison's eyes opened.  "I know her--at least, I have met her.  She
was in London the season before last.  Her mother was English, I
think, and hence her name.  She rather scared me.  She wasn't a
delegate, was she?"

"No," said Archie.  "She held a watching brief for something.  I
can tell you she scared old Mastrovin.  He didn't like to be in the
same room with her, and he changed his hotel when she turned up at
it."

"Never mind the Blood-red Rook," said Alison.  "Mastrovin is our
problem.  I don't care a hoot for Evallonian politics, but having
once been on the Monarchist side I'm going to stick to it.
Evallonia is apparently at boiling-point.  The Monarchist cause
depends upon Prince John.  Mastrovin is for the Republic or
something still shadier, and therefore he is against Prince John.
That innocent doesn't know his enemy is about, and Casimir has gone
off in the direction of Italy.  Therefore we have got to do
something about it."

"What puzzles me," said Archie, "is what your Prince is doing in
Unnutz, which isn't exactly next door to Evallonia, and why he
should want to get himself up as a peasant?"

"It puzzles me, too, but that isn't the point.  It all shows that
things are getting warm in Evallonia.  What we have got to do is to
dig Prince John out of that hut before Mastrovin murders or kidnaps
him, and stow him away in some safer place.  I considered it rather
a heavy job for me alone, but it should be child's play for the
three of us.  Don't tell me you decline to play."

During the last few minutes of the conversation Archie's face had
been steadily brightening.

"Of course we'll play," he said.  "You can count us in, Alison, but
I'm getting very discreet in my old age, and I must think it over
pretty carefully.  It's a chancy business purloining princes,
however good your intentions may be.  The thing's easy enough, but
it's the follow-up that matters. . . .  Wait a second.  I've always
believed that the best hiding-place was just under the light.  What
about bringing him to this hotel to join our party?"

"As Prince John or as a woodcutter?" Janet asked.

"As neither," said Archie.  "My servant got 'flu in Geneva, and I
had to leave him behind.  How would the Prince fancy taking on the
job?  I can lend him some of my clothes.  Is he the merry class of
lad that likes a jape?"

The luncheon-gong boomed.  "We can talk about that later," said
Alison.  "Meanwhile, it's agreed that we three slip out of this
place after dark.  We'll take your car part of the way, and there's
a moon, and I can guide you the rest.  We daren't delay, for I'm
positive that this very night Mastrovin will get busy."

Sir Archie arose with mirth in his eye, patted his hair and squared
his shoulders.  A boy approached and handed him a telegram.

"It's from Bobby Despenser," he announced.  "The Conference has
resumed and he wants me back at once.  Well, he can whistle for
me."

He tore the flimsy into small pieces.

"Take notice, you two," he said, "that most unfortunately I have
not received Bobby's wire."


III


On the following morning three people sat down to a late breakfast
in a private sitting-room of the Hotel Kaiserin Augusta.  All three
were a little heavy about the eyes, as if their night's rest had
been broken, but in the air of each was a certain subdued
excitement and satisfaction.

"My new fellow is settling down nicely," said Sir Archie, helping
himself to his third cup of coffee.  "Answers smartly to the name
of McTavish.  Lucky I brought the real McTavish's passport with me.
Curious thing, but the passport photograph isn't unlike him, and he
has almost the same measurements.  I've put some sticking-plaster
above his left eye to correspond to the scar that McTavish got in
Mespot, and I've had a go at his hair with scissors--he objected
pretty strongly to that, by the way.  I've put him into my striped
blue flannel suit, which you could tell for English a mile away,
and given him a pair of my old brown shoes.  Thank God, he's just
about my size.  I'm going to buy him a black Homburg--the shops
here are full of them--and then he'll look the very model of a
gentleman's gentleman, who has had to supplement his London
wardrobe locally."

"But, Archie, he has the kind of face that you can't camouflage,"
said Janet.  "Anyone who knows him is bound to recognise him."

Her husband waved his hand.  "N'ayez pas peur, je m'en charge, as
old Perriot used to say at Geneva.  He won't be recognised, because
no one will expect him here.  He's in the wrong environment--under
the light, so to speak, which is the best sort of hiding-place.  He
won't go much out of doors, and I've got him a cubby-hole of a
bedroom up in the attics.  Not too comfortable, but Pretenders to
thrones must expect to rough it a bit.  He'll mess with the
servants, who are of every nationality on earth, and I've told him
to keep his mouth shut.  Like all royalties, he's a dab at
languages, and speaks English without an accent, but I'm teaching
him to give his words a Scotch twist.  He tumbled to it straight
off, and says 'Sirr' just like my old batman.  If anyone makes
trouble I've advised him to dot him one on the jaw in the best
British style.  He looks as if he could swing a good punch."

The small hours of the morning had been a stirring time for the
party.  They had left the hotel by Alison's verandah a little
before midnight, and in Archie's car had reached the foot of the
forest path, meeting no one on the road.  Then their way had become
difficult, for it was very dark among the pines, and Alison had
once or twice been at fault in her guiding.  The moon rose when
they were near the crest of the hill, and after that it had been
easy to find the road to the hut through the dew-drenched pastures.
There things marched fast.  There was pandemonium with two dogs,
quieted with difficulty by Alison, who had a genius for animals.
The old woman, who appeared with a stable-lantern, denied fiercely
that there was any occupant of the hut except herself, her husband
being dead these ten years and her only son gone over the mountains
to a wedding.  She was persuaded in the end by Alison's mention of
Count Casimir, and the three were admitted.

Then Prince John had appeared fully dressed, with what was
obviously a revolver in his pocket.  He recognised Alison and had
heard of Sir Archie, and things went more smoothly.  The news that
Mastrovin was on his trail obviously alarmed him, but he took a
long time to be convinced about the need for shifting his
residence.  Clearly he was a docile instrument in the hands of the
Monarchists, and hesitated to disobey their orders for fear of
spoiling their plan.  Things, it appeared, were all in train for a
revolution in Evallonia, at any moment he might be required to act,
and Unnutz had been selected as the council-chamber of the
conspirators.  On this point it took the united forces of the party
to persuade him, but in the end he saw reason.  Alison clinched the
matter.  "If Mastrovin and his friends get you, it's all up.  If
you come with us it may put a little grit in the wheels, but it
won't smash the machine.  Remember, sir, that these men are
desperate, and won't stick at trifles.  They were desperate two
years ago at Castle Gay, but now it is pretty well your life or
theirs, and it had better be theirs."

When he allowed himself to be convinced his spirits rose.  He was a
young man of humour, and approved of Sir Archie's proposal that he
should go to their hotel.  He liked the idea of taking the place of
the absent McTavish, and thought that he could fill the part.
There only remained to give instructions to the old woman.  If
anyone came inquiring, she was not to deny the existence of her
late guest, though she was to profess ignorance of who or what he
was.  Her story was to be that he had left the preceding afternoon
with his belongings on his back.  She did not know where he had
gone, but believed that it was over the mountains to the Vossthal,
since he had taken the path for the Vossjoch.

The journey back had been simple, though Alison had thought it wise
to make a considerable detour.  It had been slightly complicated by
the good manners of the Prince, since he persisted in offering
assistance to Janet and Alison, who needed it as little as a
chamois.  They had reached the hotel just before daybreak, and had
entered, they believed, without being observed.  That morning Sir
Archie had explained to the manager about the delayed arrival of
his servant, and the name of Angus McTavish had been duly entered
in the hotel books with the Roylances' party.

"And now," said Archie, "he's busy attending to my dress-clothes.
What says the Scriptures?  'Kings shall be thy ministers and queens
thy nursing mothers.'  We're getting up in the world, Janet.  I'm
going to raise a chauffeur's cap for him, and I want him to take
your parents, Alison, out in the car this afternoon to accustom the
neighbourhood to the sight of a new menial.  As for me, I propose
to pay another visit to the hut.  There's bound to have been
developments up that way, and we ought to keep in touch with them.
I'll be an innocent tourist out for a walk to observe birds."

"What worries me," said Janet, "is how we are going to keep the
Monarchists quiet.  We may have Count Casimir here any moment, and
that will give the show away."

"No, it won't.  I mean, he won't.  I left a letter for him which
will give him plenty to think about."

Janet set down her coffee-cup.  "What did you say in the letter?"
she demanded severely.

"McTavish wrote it--I only dictated the terms.  He quite saw the
sense of it.  It was by way of being a piteous cry for help.  It
said he had been pinched by Mastrovin and his gang, and appealed to
his friends to fly to his rescue.  Quite affecting it was.  You see
the scheme?  We've got to keep McTavish cool and quiet on the ice
till things develop.  If Casimir and his lot are looking for him in
Mastrovin's hands they won't trouble us.  If Mastrovin is being
hunted by Casimir he won't be able to hunt McTavish.  What you
might call a cancelling out of snags."

His wife frowned.  "I wonder if you've not been a little too
clever."

"Not a bit of it," was the cheerful answer.  "Ordinary horse sense.
As old Perriot said, 'N'ayez pas peur--'"

"Archie," said Janet, "if you quote that stuff again I shall fling
the coffee-pot at you."


IV


Sir Archie did not return till nine o'clock that evening, for he
had walked every step of the road and had several times lost his
way.  He refreshed himself in the sitting-room with sandwiches and
beer, while Janet and Alison had their after-dinner coffee.

"How did McTavish behave?" he asked Alison.

"Admirably.  He drives beautifully and both Papa and Mamma thought
he was Scotch.  The only mistake was that he treated us like
grandees, and held the door open with his cap in his hand.  How
about you?  You look as if you had been seeing life?"

"I've had a trying time," said Sir Archie, passing a hand through
his hair.  "There has been a bit of a row up at the hut.  No actual
violence, but a good deal of unpleasantness."

"Have you been fighting?" Janet asked, observing a long scratch on
her husband's sunburnt forehead.

"Oh, that scratch is nothing, only the flick of a branch.  But I've
been through considerable physical tribulation.  Wait till I get my
pipe lit and you'll have the whole story. . . .

"I reached the hut between four and five o'clock in what John
Bunyan calls a pelting heat.  Ye gods, but it was stuffy in the
pinewoods, and blistering hot on the open hillside!  I made pretty
good time, and arrived rather out of condition, for my right leg--
my game leg as was--wasn't quite functioning as it should.  Well,
there was the old woman, and in none too good a temper.  Poor soul,
she had been considerably chivvied since we last saw her.  It
seemed that we were just in time this morning, for Mastrovin and
his merry men turned up about an hour after we left.  It was a
mercy we didn't blunder into them in the wood, and a mercy that we
had the sense to hide the car a goodish distance from where the
track starts.  Mastrovin must have spent yesterday in sleuthing,
for he had the ground taped, and knew that McTavish had been in the
hut at supper.  He had three fellows with him, and they gave the
old lady a stiff time.  They didn't believe her yarn about McTavish
having started out for the Vossthal.  They ransacked every corner
of the place, and put in some fine detective work examining beds
and cupboards and dirty dishes, besides raking the outhouses and
beating the adjacent coverts.  In the end they decided that their
bird had flown and tried to terrorise the old lady into a
confession.  But she's a tough ancient, and by her account returned
them as good as they gave.  She wanted to know what concern her
great-nephew Franz was of theirs, poor Franz that had lost his
health working in Innsbruck and had come up into the hills to
recruit.  All their bullying couldn't shake her about great-nephew
Franz, and in the end they took themselves off, leaving her with a
very healthy dislike of the whole push.

"Then, very early this morning, Count Casimir turned up and got his
letter.  It put him in a great taking.  She said he grew as white
as a napkin, and he started to cross-examine her about the hour and
the manner of the pinching of McTavish.  That was where I had
fallen down, for I had forgotten to tell her what was in the
letter.  So she gave a very confused tale, for she described him as
going off with us, mentioning the women in the party, and she also
described Mastrovin's coming, and from what she said I gathered
that he got the two visits mixed up.  What specially worried him
was that Mastrovin should have had women with him, and he was very
keen to know what they were like.  I don't know how the old dame
described you two--I should have liked to hear her--but anyway, it
didn't do much to satisfy the Count.  She said that he kept walking
about biting his lips, and repeating a word that sounded like
'Mintha.'  After that he was in a hurry to be off, but before
leaving he gave her an address--I've written it down--with which
she was to communicate if she got any news.

"I was just straightening out the story for her--I thought it right
to get her mind clear--and explaining that we had got McTavish safe
and sound, but that it was imperative in his own interests that
Count Casimir should believe there had been dirty work, when what
do you think happened?  Mastrovin turned up, accompanied by a
fellow who looked like a Jew barber out of a job.  He didn't
recognise me and looked at me very old-fashioned.  I was sitting in
a low chair, and got up politely to greet him, when I had an
infernal piece of bad luck.  I sprang every blessed muscle in my
darned leg.  You see, it hadn't been accustomed to so much exercise
for a long time, and the muscles were all flabby.  Gad, I never
knew such pain!  It was the worst go of cramp I ever heard of.  My
toes stuck out like agonising claws--my calf was a solid lump of
torment--the riding muscle above the knee was stiff as a poker and
as hard as iron.  I must have gone white with pain, and I was all
in a cold sweat, and I'm dashed if I could do anything except
wallow in the chair and howl.

"Well, Mastrovin wasn't having any of that.  He gave me some rough-
tonguing in German, and demanded of the old woman what kind of
mountebank I was.  But she had taken her cue--pretty quick in the
uptake she is--or else she thought I was having a paralytic stroke.
I was all dithered with the pain and couldn't notice much, but I
saw that she had got off my shoes and stockings and had fetched hot
water to bathe my feet.  Then the barber-fellow took a hand, for he
saw I wasn't playing a game.  I daresay he was some kind of medico
and he knew his business.  He started out to massage me, beginning
with the lower thigh, and I recognised the professional touch.  In
a few minutes he had me easier, and you know the way the thing
goes--suddenly all the corded muscles dropped back into their
proper places, and I was out of pain, but limp as chewing-gum.

"Then Mastrovin began to ask me questions, first in German, and
then in rather better English than my own.  I gave him my name, and
his face cleared a little, for he remembered me from Geneva.  He
was quite polite, but I preferred his rough-tonguing to his
civility.  A nasty piece of work that lad--his eyes are as cold as
a fish's, but they go through you like a gimlet.  I was determined
to outstay him, for I didn't want him to be giving the old lady the
third degree, which was pretty obviously what he had come for.  So
I pretended to be down and out, and lay back in her chair gasping,
and drank water in a sad invalidish way.  I would have stuck it out
till midnight, but friend Mastrovin must have been pressed for
time, for after about half an hour he got up to go.  He offered to
give me a hand down the hill, but I explained that I wasn't yet
ready to move, but should be all right in an hour or so.  I
consider I brought off rather a creditable piece of acting, for he
believed me.  I also told him that I had just popped in to Unnutz
for a night and was hurrying back to Geneva.  He knew that the
Conference had been resumed, but said that he himself might be a
little late. . . .  That's about all.  I gave him twenty minutes'
law and then started home.  D'you mind ringing the bell, Janet?  I
think I'll have an omelet and some more beer.  Where's McTavish?"

"At his supper, I expect.  What I want to know, Archie, is our next
step.  We can't go on hiding royal princes in the butler's pantry.
McTavish will revolt out of sheer boredom."

"I don't think so."  Archie shook a sapient head.  "McTavish is a
patient fellow, and has had a pretty strict training these last
years.  Besides, life is gayer for him here than up at that hut,
and the food must be miles better.  We've got to play a waiting
game, for the situation is obscure.  I had a talk with him this
morning, and by all accounts Evallonian politics are a considerable
mix-up."

"What did he tell you?" Alison asked sharply.  She felt that to
Archie and Janet it was all a game, but that she herself had some
responsibility.

"Well, it seems that the revolution is ready to the last decimal--
the press prepared, the National Guard won over, the people
waiting, and the Ministers packing their portmanteaux.  The
Republican Government will go down like ninepins.  But while the
odds are all on the monarchy being restored, they are all against
its lasting very long.  It appears that in the last two years there
has been a great movement in Evallonia of all the younger lot.
They're tired of having the old 'uns call the tune and want to play
a sprig themselves.  I don't blame 'em, for the old 'uns have made
a pretty mess of it."

"Is that the thing they call Juventus?" Alison asked.  "I read
about it in The Times."

"Some name like that.  Anyhow, McTavish tells me it's the most
formidable thing Evallonia has seen for many a day.  They hate the
Republicans, and still more Mastrovin and his Communists.  But they
won't have anything to do with Prince John, for they distrust Count
Casimir and all that lot.  Call them the 'old gang,' the same
bouquets as we hand to our elder statesmen, and want a fresh deal
with new measures and new men.  They're said to be more than half a
million strong, all likely lads in hard condition and jolly well
trained--they've specialised in marksmanship, for which Evallonia
was always famous.  They have the arms and the money, and, being
all bound together by a blood oath, their discipline is the
stiffest thing on earth.  Oh, and I forgot to tell you--they wear
green shirts--foresters' green.  They have a marching song about
the green of their woodlands, and the green of their mountain
lakes, and the green shirts of Evallonia's liberators.  It's funny
what a big part fancy haberdashery plays in the world to-day."

"Have they a leader?" Alison asked.

"That's what I can't make out.  There doesn't seem to be any
particular roi de chemises--that's what Charles Lamancha used to
call me in my dressy days.  But apparently the thing leads itself.
The fact we've got to face is that if Casimir puts McTavish on the
throne, which apparently he can do with his left hand, Juventus
will kick him out in a week, and McTavish naturally doesn't want
that booting.  That's why he has been so docile.  He sees that the
right policy for him is to lie low till things develop."

"Then our next step must be to get in touch with Juventus," said
Alison.

Janet opened her eyes.  "You're taking this very seriously, Allie,"
she said.

"I am," was the answer.  "You see, I was in it two years ago."

"But how is it to be done?" Archie asked.  "McTavish doesn't know.
He doesn't know who the real leaders are--nor Casimir, and
certainly not Mastrovin.  You see, the thing is by way of being a
secret society, sort of jumble-up of Boy Scouts, Freemasons and the
Red Hand.  They have their secret pass-words, and the brightest
journalist never sticks his head into one of their conclaves.  They
can spot a Monarchist or Republican spy a mile off, and don't stand
on ceremony with 'em.  They have a badge like Hitler's swastika--an
open eye--but, apart from their songs and their green shirts,
that's their only public symbol."

"My advice," said Janet, "is that we keep out of it, and restore
the Prince to the sorrowing Count Casimir as soon as we can get in
touch with him.  You go back to Scotland with your family, Allie,
and Archie and I will pop down into Italy."

There was a knock at the door and a waiter brought in the evening
post.  One letter was for Alison, which she tore open eagerly as
soon as she saw the handwriting.  She read it three times and then
raised a flushed face.

"It's from Jaikie," she said, and there was that in her voice which
made Archie and Janet look up from their own correspondence.
"Jaikie, you know--my friend--Mr Galt that I told you about.  He is
somewhere in Evallonia."

"My aunt!" exclaimed Archie.  "Then there will be trouble for
somebody."

"There's trouble for him.  He seems to have got into deep waters.
Listen to what he says."

She read the following:


"I am in a queer business which I am bound to see through.  But I
can't do it without your help.  Can you manage to get away from
your parents for a few days, and come to Tarta, just inside the
Evallonian frontier?  You take the train to a place called Zutpha,
where you will be met.  If you can come wire Odalchini, Tarta, the
time of your arrival.  I wouldn't bother you if the thing wasn't
rather important, and, besides, I think you would like to be in
it."


"Short and to the point," commented the girl.  "Jaikie never wastes
words.  He has a genius for understatement, so if he says it is
rather important it must be tremendously important. . . .  Wait a
minute.  Odalchini!  Prince Odalchini was one of the three at
Knockraw two years ago.  Jaikie has got mixed up with the
Monarchists."

Archie was hunting through his notebook.  "What did you say was the
name of the place?  Tarta?  That's the address Casimir gave the old
woman to write to if she had any news.  Schloss Thingumybob--the
second word has about eight consonants and no vowels--Tarta, by
Zutpha.  Your friend Jaikie has certainly got among the
Monarchists."

"Hold on!" Alison cried.  "What's this?"  She passed round the
letter for inspection.  It was a sheet of very common note-paper
with no address on it, but in the top left-hand corner there was
stamped in green a neat little open eye with some hieroglyphic
initials under it.

"Do you see what that means?"  In her excitement her voice sank to
a whisper.  "Jaikie is in touch with the Juventus people.  This
letter was sent with their consent--or the consent of one of them,
and franked by him."

"Well, Allie?" Janet asked.

"Of course I'm going.  I must go.  But I can't go alone, for Papa
wouldn't allow it.  He and Mamma have decided to return to Scotland
this week to Aunt Harriet at Castle Gay.  You and Archie must go to
Tarta and take me with you."

"Isn't that a large order?  What about McTavish?"

"We must take him with us, for then we'll have all the cards in our
hands.  It's going to be terribly exciting, but I can promise you
that Jaikie won't fail us.  You won't fail me either?"

Janet turned smilingly to her husband.  "What about it, Archie?"

"I'm on," was the answer.  "I've been in a mix-up with Master
Jaikie before.  Bobby Despenser can whistle for me.  The difficulty
will be McTavish, who's a compromising piece of goods, but we'll
manage somehow.  Lord, this is like old times, and I feel about ten
years younger.  'It little profits that an idle king, matched with
an aged wife. . . .'  Don't beat me, Janet.  We're both ageing. . . .
I always thought that the Almighty didn't get old Christoph to
mend my leg for nothing."



IV

DIFFICULTIES OF A REVOLUTIONARY


When Jaikie saw who his captor was, his wrath ebbed.  Had it been
Prince Odalchini it would have been an outrage, but since it was
Ashie, it was only an undergraduate "rag" which could easily be
repaid in kind.  But his demeanour was severe.

"What's the meaning of these monkey tricks?" he demanded.

"The meaning is," Ashie had ceased to smile, "that you have
deceived me.  What about your business with your circus friend?  I
had you followed--I was bound to take every precaution--and instead
of feeding in a pot-house you run in circles like a hunted hare and
end up at the Schloss.  I had my men inside the park, and when I
heard what you were up to I gave orders that you should be brought
before me.  You went straight from me to the enemy.  What have you
to say to that?"

Ashie's words were firm, but there was dubiety in his voice and a
hint of uncertainty in his eye; this the other observed, and the
sight wholly removed his irritation.  Ashie was talking like a
book, but he was horribly embarrassed.

"Well, I'm blowed!" said Jaikie.  "Who the blazes made you my
keeper?  Let's get this straightened out at once.  First, what I
said was strictly true.  I was going to lunch with my friend from
the circus.  If your tripe-hounds had been worth their keep they
would have seen me meet him--a fellow with the name of the circus
blazoned on his cap.  The choice of a luncheon place was his own
and I had nothing to do with it.  As a matter of fact, I happened
to know the man he took me to, Prince Odalchini--I met him two
years ago in Scotland.  Have you got that into your fat head?"

"Will you please give me the gist of your conversation with Prince
Odalchini?"

"Why on earth should I?  What has it got to do with you?  But I'll
tell you one thing.  He was very hospitable and wanted me to stay a
bit with him--same as you.  I said no, that I wanted to go home,
and I was on my way back when I fell in with your push and got my
head in a bag.  What do you mean by it?  I'm sorry to tell you that
you have taken a liberty--and I don't allow liberties."

"Prince Odalchini is the enemy, and we are in a state of war."

"Get off it.  He's not my enemy, and I don't know anything about
your local scraps.  I told you I would have nothing to do with
them, and I told the Prince the same."

"So you talked of Evallonian affairs?" said Ashie.

"Certainly.  What else was there to talk about?  Not that he told
me much, except that there was likely to be trouble and that he
wanted me to stay on and see the fun.  I told him I wasn't
interested in his tin-pot politics and I tell you the same."

This had the effect which Jaikie intended, and made Ashie angry.

"I do not permit such language," he said haughtily.  "I do not
tolerate insults to my country.  Understand that you are not in
your sleek England, but in a place where gentlemen defend their
honour in the old way."

"Oh, don't be a melodramatic ass.  I thought we had civilised you
at Cambridge and given you a sense of humour, but you've relapsed
into the noble savage.  I've been in Evallonia less than one day
and I know nothing about it.  Your politics may be all the world to
you, but they're tin-pot to me.  I refuse to be mixed up in them."

"You've mixed yourself up in them by having intercourse with the
enemy."

"Enemy be blowed!  I talked for an hour or two to a nice old man
who gave me a dashed good luncheon, and now you come butting in
with your detective-novel tricks.  I demand to be deported at once.
Otherwise I'll raise the hairiest row about the kidnapping of a
British subject.  If you want international trouble, I promise you
you'll get it.  I don't know where we are, but here's this car, and
you've got to deliver me at Kremisch by bedtime.  That's the least
you can do to make amends for your cheek."

Jaikie looked out of the window and observed that they had halted
on high ground, and that below them lights twinkled as if from an
encampment.  For a moment he thought that he had struck the Cirque
Doré.  And then a bugle sounded, an instrument not generally used
in circuses.  "Is that your crowd down there?" he asked.

Ashie's face, even in the dim interior light of the car, showed
perplexity.  He seemed to be revolving some difficult question in
his mind.  When he spoke again there was both appeal and apology in
his voice.  Jaikie had an authority among his friends which was the
stronger because he was wholly unconscious of it and in no way
sought it.  His personality was so clean-cut and his individuality
so complete and secure that, while one or two gave him affection,
all gave him respect.

"I'll apologise if you like," said Ashie.  "I daresay what I did
was an outrage.  But the fact is, Jaikie, I badly want your help.
Your advice, anyway.  I'm in a difficult position, and I don't see
my road very clearly.  You see, I'm an Evallonian, and this is
Evallonian business, but I've got a little outside the atmosphere
of my own country.  That's to the good, perhaps, for this thing is
on the biggest scale and wants looking at all round it.  That's why
I need your help.  Give me one night, and I swear, if you still
want me to, I'll deliver you at Kremisch to-morrow morning and
trouble you no more."

Jaikie was the most placable of mortals, he had a strong liking for
Ashie, and he was a little moved by the anxious sincerity of his
voice.  He had half expected this proposal.

"All right," he said, "I'll give you one night.  Have your fellows
pinched my kit?"

Ashie pointed to a knapsack on the floor of the car, which he
promptly shouldered.  "Let's get out of this," he said.  He spoke a
word to the driver, who skipped round and opened the door, standing
stiffly at the salute.  Then he led the way down the little slope
into the meadow of the twinkling lights.  Presently he had to give
a pass-word, and three times had to halt for that purpose before
they reached his tent.  The gathering was far larger than that
which Jaikie had seen at the Tarta bridge, and he noticed a
considerable number of picketed horses.

"What are these chaps after?" he asked.

"We are riding the marches," was the answer.  "What at Cambridge
they call beating the bounds.  It is not desirable that for the
present we should operate too near the capital."

There were two tents side by side and separated by a considerable
space from the rest, as if to ensure the commander's privacy.  A
sentry stood on guard whom Ashie dismissed with an order.  He led
Jaikie into the bigger of the tents.  It was furnished with a camp
mattress, two folding chairs, and a folding table littered with
maps.  "You will sleep next door.  You may have a companion for the
night, but of that I speak later.  Meantime, let us dine.  I can
only offer you soldiers' fare."

The fare proved excellent.  A mushroom omelet was brought in by one
of the green-shirts, and cups of strong coffee.  There was a dish
of assorted cold meats, and a pleasantly mild cheese.  They drank
white wine, and Ashie insisted on Jaikie tasting the native
liqueur.  "It is made from the lees of wine," he told him.  "Like
the French marc, but not so vehement."

When the meal was cleared away Jaikie lit his pipe and Ashie a thin
black cigar.  "Now for my story," the latter said.  "There is one
fact beyond question.  The rotten Republican Government is doomed,
and hangs now by a single hair which a breath of wind can destroy.
But when the hair has gone, what then?"

He told much the same tale that Jaikie had heard that day from
Prince Odalchini, but with a far greater wealth of detail.
Especially he expounded the origin and nature of Juventus, with
which he had been connected from the start.  "Most of this is
common knowledge," he said, "but not all--yet.  We are not a secret
society, but we have our arcana imperii."  He described its
beginnings.  Ricci had designed it as a counter-move against the
Monarchists, but it had soon turned into something very different,
a power detached indeed from the Monarchists but altogether hostile
to the Republic, and Ricci, the used instead of the user, had been
flung aside.  "It was no less than a resurgence of the spirit of
the Evallonian nation," he said solemnly.

He explained how it had run through the youth of the country like a
flame in stubble.  "We are a poor people," he said, "though not so
poor as some, for we are closer to the soil, and less dependent
upon others.  But we have been stripped of some of our richest
parts where industry flourished, and many of us are in great
poverty.  Especially it is hard for the young, who see no
livelihood for them in their fathers' professions, and can find
none elsewhere.  Evallonia, thanks to the jealous Powers, has been
reduced to too great an economic simplicity, and has not that
variety of interests which a civilised society requires.  Also
there is another matter.  We have always made a hobby of our
education, as in your own Scotland.  Parents will starve themselves
to send their sons to Melina to the university, and often a commune
itself will pay for a clever boy.  What is the consequence?  We
have an educated youth, but no work for it.  We have created an
academic proletariat and it is distressed and bitter."

Ashie told his story well, but his language was not quite his
native wood-notes.  Jaikie wondered whose reflections he was
repeating.  He wondered still more when he launched into an
analysis of the exact feelings of Evallonian youth.  There was a
subtlety in it and an acumen which belonged to a far maturer and
more sophisticated mind.

"So that is that," he concluded.  "If our youth is to be satisfied
and our country is to prosper, it is altogether necessary that the
Government should be taken to pieces and put together again on a
better plan.  What that plan is our youth must decide, and whatever
it is it must provide them with a horizon of opportunity.  We
summon our people to a new national discipline under which everyone
shall have both rights and duties."

Where had Ashie got these phrases, Jaikie asked himself--"arcana
imperii," "academic proletariat," "horizon of opportunity"?  There
must be some philosopher in the background.  "That sounds
reasonable enough," was all he said.

"It is reasonable--but difficult.  Some things we will not have.
Communism, for one--of that folly Europe contains too many awful
warnings.  We have had enough talk of republics, which are the
dullest species of oligarchy.  Evallonia, having history in her
bones, is a natural monarchy.  Her happiest destiny would be to be
like England."

"That is all right then," said Jaikie.  "You have Prince John."

Ashie's face clouded.

"Alas! that is not possible.  For myself I have nothing against the
Prince.  He represents our ancient line of kings, and he is young,
and he is well spoken of, though I have never met him.  But he is
fatally compromised.  His supporters, who are about to restore him,
are indeed better men than our present mis-governors, but they are
relics--fossils.  They would resurrect an old world with all its
stupidities.  They are as alien to us as Mastrovin and Rosenbaum,
though less hateful.  If Prince John is set upon the throne, it is
very certain that our first duty will be regretfully to remove him--
regretfully, for it is not the Prince that we oppose, but his
following."

"I see," said Jaikie.  "It IS rather a muddle.  Are the Monarchists
only a collection of stick-in-the-muds?"

"You can judge for yourself.  You have seen Prince Odalchini, who
is one of the best.  He worships dead things--he speaks the
language of a vanished world."

Once again Jaikie wondered how Ashie, whose talk had hitherto been
chiefly of horses, had managed to acquire this novel jargon.

"You want a king, but you won't--or can't--have the Prince.  Then
you've got to find somebody else.  What's your fancy?  Have you a
possible in your own rank?"

Ashie knit his brows.  "I do not think so.  We have admirable
regimental officers and good brigadiers, but no general-in-chief.
Juventus was a spontaneous movement of many people, and not the
creation of one man."

"But you must have leaders."

"Leaders--but no leader.  The men who presided at its birth have
gone.  There was Ricci, who was a trickster and a coward.  He has
washed himself out.  There was my father, who is now dead.  I do
not think that he would have led, for he was not sure of himself.
He had great abilities, but he was too clever for the common run of
people, and he was not trusted.  He was ambitious, and since his
merits were not recognised, he was always unhappy, and therefore he
was ineffective.  I have inherited the prestige of his name, but
the Almighty has given me a more comfortable nature."

"Why not yourself?" Jaikie asked.  "You seem to fill the bill.
Young and bold and not yet compromised.  Ashie the First--or
would it be Paul the Nineteenth?  I'll come and grovel at your
coronation."

Jaikie's tone of badinage gave offence.

"There is nothing comic in the notion," was the haughty answer.
"Four hundred years ago my ancestors held the gates of Europe
against the Turk.  Two centuries before that they rode in the
Crusades.  The house of Jovian descends straight from the Emperors
of Rome.  I am of an older and prouder race than Prince John."

"I'm sure you are," said Jaikie apologetically.  "Well, why not
have a shot at it?  I would like to have a pal a reigning monarch."

"Because I cannot," said Ashie firmly.  "I am more confident than
my father, God rest his soul, but in such a thing I do not trust
myself.  Your wretched England has spoiled me.  I do not want pomp
and glory.  I should yawn my head off in a palace, and I should
laugh during the most solemn ceremonials, and I should certainly
beat my Ministers.  I desire to remain a private gentleman and some
day to win your Grand National."

Jaikie whistled.

"We have certainly spoiled you for this game.  What's to be done
about it?"

"I do not know," was the doleful answer.  "For I cannot draw back.
There have been times when I wanted to slip away and hide myself in
England.  But I am now too deep in the business, and I have led too
many people to trust me, and I have to consider the honour of my
house."

"Honour?" Jaikie queried.

"Yes, honour," said Ashie severely.  "Have you anything to say
against it?"

"N-o-o.  But it's an awkward word and apt to obscure reason."

"It is a very real thing, which you English do not understand."

"We understand it well enough, but we are shy of talking about it.
Remember the inscription in the Abbey of Thelème--'Fais ce que
voudrais, for the desires of decent men will always be governed by
honour.'"

Ashie smiled, for Rabelais, as Jaikie remembered, had been one of
the few authors whom he affected.

"That doesn't get one very far," he said.  "I can't leave my
friends in the lurch any more than you could.  I have been forced
in spite of myself into a position out of which I cannot see my
way, and any moment I may have to act against my will and against
my judgment.  That's why I want your advice."

"There are people behind you prodding you on?  Probably one in
particular?  Who is it?"

"I cannot say."

"Well, I can.  It's a woman."

Ashie's face darkened, and this time he was really angry.  "What
the devil do you mean?  What have you heard?  I insist that you
explain."

"Sorry, Ashie.  That was a silly remark, and I had no right to make
it."

"You must mean something.  Someone has been talking to you.  Who?
What?  Quick, I have a right to know."

Ashie had mounted a very high horse and had become unmistakably the
outraged foreign grandee.

"It was only a vulgar guess," said Jaikie soothingly.  "You see, I
know you pretty well, Ashie.  It isn't easy to shift you against
your will.  I couldn't do it, and I don't believe any of your
friends could do it.  You've become a sensible chap since we took
you in hand, and look at things in a reasonable way.  You're not
the kind of fellow to run your head against a stone wall.  Here you
are with all the materials of a revolution in your hands and you
haven't a notion what to do with them.  It's no good talking about
honour and about loyalty to your crowd when if you go on you are
only going to land them in the soup.  And yet you seem determined
to go on.  Somebody has been talking big to you and you're
impressed.  From what I know of you I say that it cannot be a man,
so it must be a woman."

Ashie's face did not relax.

"So you think I'm that kind of fool!  The slave of a sentimental
woman? . . .  The damnable thing is that you're right.  The power
behind Juventus is a girl.  Quite young--just about my own age.  A
kinswoman of mine, too, sort of second cousin twice removed.  I'll
tell you her name.  The Countess Araminta Troyos."

Jaikie's blank face witnessed that he had never heard of the lady.

"I've known her all my life," Ashie went on, "and we have been more
or less friends, though I never professed to understand her.
Beautiful?  Oh yes, amazingly, if you admire the sable and amber
type.  And brains!  She could run round Muresco and his lot, and
even Mastrovin has a healthy respect for her.  And ambition enough
for half a dozen Mussolinis.  And her power of--what do you call
the damned thing?--mass-persuasion?--is simply unholy.  She is the
soul of Juventus.  There's not one of them that doesn't carry a
picture postcard of her next his heart."

"What does she want?  To be Queen?"

"Not she, though she would make a dashed good one.  She's old-
fashioned in some ways, and doesn't believe much in her own sex.
Good sane anti-feminist.  She wants a man on the throne of
Evallonia, but she's going to make jolly well sure that it's she
who puts him there."

"I see."  Jaikie whistled gently through his teeth, which was a
habit of his.  "Are you in love with her?"

"Ye gods, no!  She's not my kind.  I'd as soon marry a were-wolf as
Cousin Mintha."

"Is she in love with you?"

"No.  I'm positive no.  She could never be in love with anybody in
the ordinary way.  She runs for higher stakes.  But she mesmerises
me, and that's the solemn truth.  When she orates to me I feel all
the pith going out of my bones.  I simply can't stand up to her.
I'm terrified of her.  Jaikie, I'm in danger of making a blazing,
blasted fool of myself.  That's why I want you."

Ashie's cheerful face had suddenly become serious and pathetic,
like a puzzled child's, and at the sight of it Jaikie's heart
melted.  He was not much interested in Evallonia, but he was fond
of Ashie, now in the toils of an amber and sable Cleopatra.  He
could not see an old friend dragged into trouble by a crazy girl
without doing something to prevent it.  A certain esprit de sexe
was added to the obligations of friendship.

"But what can I do?" he asked.  "I don't know the first thing about
women--I've hardly met any in my life--I'm no match for your
cousin."

"You can help me to keep my head cool," was the answer.  "You stand
for the world of common sense which will always win in the long
run.  When I'm inclined to run amok you'll remind me of England.
You'll lower the temperature."

"You want me to hold your hand?"

"Just so.  To hold my hand."

"Well," said Jaikie after a pause.  "I don't mind trying it out for
a fortnight.  You'll have to give me free board and lodging, or I
won't have the money to take me home."

Ashie's face cleared so miraculously that for one uncomfortable
moment Jaikie thought that he was about to be embraced.  Instead he
shook hands with a grip like iron.

"You're a true friend," he said.  "Come what may, I'll never forget
this. . . .  There's another thing.  Unless we're to have civil war
there must be some arrangement.  Somebody must keep in touch with
the Monarchists, or in a week there will be bloody battles.
Juventus has cut off all communication with the enemy and burned
its boats, but it cannot be allowed to go forward blindly, and
crash head-on into the other side.  I want a trait d'union, and
you're the man for it.  I can't do it, for I'm too conspicuous--I
should be found out at once, and suspected of treachery.  But you
know Prince Odalchini.  You've got to be my go-between.  How do you
fancy the job?"

Jaikie fancied it a good deal.  It promised amusement and a field
for his special talents.

"It won't be too easy," Ashie went on.  "You see, you're by way of
being my prisoner.  All my fellows by this time know about your
visit to the Prince and my having you kidnapped.  We've tightened
up the screws in Juventus, and I daren't let you go now."

"Then if I hadn't decided to stay, you'd have kept me by force?"
Jaikie demanded.

"No.  I would have delivered you at Kremisch according to my
promise, but it would have been an uncommon delicate job, and I
should have had to do the devil of a lot of explaining.  I've given
out that you are an English friend, who is not hostile but knows
too much to be safe.  So you'll have to be guarded, and your visits
to the House of the Four Winds will have to be nicely camouflaged.
Lucky I'm in charge of Juventus on this side of the country."

"You've begun by handicapping me pretty heavily," said Jaikie.
"But I'll keep my word and have a try."

An orderly appeared at the tent door with a message.  Ashie looked
at his watch.

"Your stable-companion for the night has arrived," he said.  "I
think you'd better clear out while I'm talking to him.  He's an
English journalist, and rather a swell, I believe, who has been
ferreting round for some weeks in Evallonia.  It won't do to
antagonise the foreign press just yet--especially the English, so I
promised to see him tonight and give him some dope.  But I'll see
that he's beyond the frontier to-morrow morning.  We don't want any
Paul Prys in this country at present."

"What's his name?" Jaikie asked with a sudden premonition.

Ashie consulted a paper.  "Crombie--Dougal Crombie.  Do you know
him?"

"I've heard of him.  He's second in command on the Craw Press,
isn't he?"

"He is.  And he'll probably be a sentimental royalist, like the old
fool who owns it."

Long ago in the Glasgow closes there had been a signal used among
the Gorbals Die-hards, if one member did not desire to be
recognised when suddenly confronted by another.  So when Mr Crombie
was ushered into the tent and observed beside the Juventus
commander a slight shabby figure, which pinched its chin with the
left hand and shut its left eye, he controlled his natural surprise
and treated Ashie as if he were alone.

"May I go to bed, sir?" Jaikie asked.  "I'm blind with sleep, and I
won't be wakened by my fellow-guest."

Ashie assented, and Jaikie gave the Juventus salute and withdrew,
keeping his eyes strictly averted from the said fellow-guest.

He did not at once undress, but sat on the sleeping valise and
thought.  His mind was not on the House of the Four Winds and the
difficulties of keeping in touch with Prince Odalchini; it was
filled with the picture of an amber and sable young woman.  That he
believed to be the real snag, and he felt himself unequal to coping
with it.  In the end, on note-paper which Ashie had given him, he
wrote two letters.  The first was to Miss Alison Westwater and the
second to Prince Odalchini; then he got into pyjamas, curled
himself inside the valise, and was almost at once asleep.

He was wakened by being poked in the ribs, and found beside him the
rugged face of Dougal illumined by a candle.

"How on earth did you get here, Jaikie?" came the hoarse whisper.

"By accident," was the sleepy answer.  "Ran into Ashie--that's
Count Paul--knew him at Cambridge.  I'm a sort of prisoner, but
I'll be all right.  Don't ask me about Evallonia, for you know far
more than me."

"I daresay I do," said Dougal.  "Man, Jaikie, this is a fearsome
mess.  Mr Craw will be out of his mind with vexation.  Here's
everything ripe for a nice law-abiding revolution, and this dam-
fool Juventus chips in and wrecks everything.  I like your Count
Paul, and he has some rudiments of sense, but he cannot see that
what he is after is sheer lunacy.  The Powers are in an easy
temper, and there would be no trouble about an orderly restoration
of the old royal house.  But if these daft lads start running some
new dictator fellow that nobody ever heard of, Europe will shut
down like a clam.  Diplomatic relations suspended--economic
boycott--the whole bag of tricks.  It's maddening that the people
who most want to kick out the present Government should be working
to give it a fresh lease of life, simply because they insist on
playing a lone hand."

"I know all that," said Jaikie.  "Go away, Dougal, and let me
sleep."

"I tell you what"--Dougal's voice was rising, and he lowered it at
Jaikie's request--"we need a first-class business mind on this job.
There's just one man alive that I'd listen to, and that's Mr
McCunn.  He's at Rosensee, and that's not a thousand miles off, and
he's quite recovered now and will likely be as restless as a hen.
I'm off there tomorrow morning to lay the case before him."

"Good," Jaikie answered.  "Now get to bed, will you?"

"I must put him in touch with Count Casimir and Prince Odalchini--
the big Schloss at Tarta is the place--that's the Monarchist
centre.  And what about yourself?  How can I find you?"

"If I'm not hanged," said Jaikie drowsily, "it will be at the same
address.  I'll turn up there some time or other.  I wish you'd put
these two letters in your pocket, and post them to-morrow when
you're over the frontier.  And now for pity's sake let me sleep."



V

SURPRISING ENERGY OF A CONVALESCENT


Mr Dickson McCunn sat in a wicker chair with his feet on the
railing of a small verandah, and his eyes on a wide vista of plain
and forest which was broken by the spires of a little town.  Now
and then he turned to beam upon a thick-set, red-haired young man
who occupied a similar chair on his left hand.  He wore a suit of
grey flannel, a startling pink shirt and collar, and brown suede
shoes--things so foreign to his usual wear that they must have been
acquired for this occasion.  He was looking remarkably well, with a
clear eye and a clear skin to which recent exposure to the sun had
given a becoming rosiness.  His hair was a little thinner than two
years ago, but no greyer.  Indeed, the only change was in his
figure, which had become more trim and youthful.  Dougal judged
that he had reduced his weight by at least a stone.

He patted his companion's arm.

"Man, Dougal, I'm glad to see you.  I was thinking just yesterday
that the thing I would like best in the world would be to see you
and Jaikie coming up the road.  I've been wearying terribly for the
sight of a kenned face.  I knew you were somewhere abroad, and I
had a sort of notion that you might give me a look in.  Are they
making you comfortable here?  It's not just the place I would
recommend for a healthy body, for they've a poor notion of food."

"Me?" he exclaimed in reply to a question.  "I've never been better
in my life.  It's a perfect miracle.  I walked fifteen miles the
day before yesterday and never turned a hair.  I'll give the salmon
a fright this back-end.  I tell you, Dougal, Dr Christoph hasn't
his equal on this earth.  He's my notion of the Apostles that could
make the lame walk and the blind see.  When I came here I was a
miserable decrepit body that couldn't sleep, and couldn't take his
meat, and wanted to lie down when he had walked a mile.  He saw me
twice a day, and glowered and glunched at me, like an old-fashioned
minister at the catechising, and asked me questions--he's one that
would speir a whelk out of its shell.  But he wouldn't deliver a
judgment--not him--just told me to possess my soul in patience till
he was ready.  He made me take queer wee medicines, and he
prescribed what I was to eat.  Oh, and I had what they call
massage--he was a wonder at that, for he seemed to flype my body as
you would flype a stocking.  And I had to take a daft kind of bath,
with first hot water and then cold water dropping on me from the
ceiling and every drop like a rifle bullet.  I thought I had
wandered into a demented hydropathic. . . .  Then after three weeks
he spoke.  'Mr McCunn,' he says, 'I'm happy to tell you that
there's nothing wrong with you.  There's been a heap wrong, but
it's gone now, the mischief is out of your system, and all you have
to do is to build your system up.  You will soon be able to eat
what you like,' he says, 'and the more the better, and you can walk
till you fall down, and you can ride on a horse'--not that I was
likely to try that--'and I don't mind if you tumble into the burn.
You're a well man,' he says, 'but I'd like to keep you here for
another three weeks under observation.'  Oh, and he wrote a long
screed about my case for the Edinburgh professor--I've got a copy
of it--I don't follow it all, for it is pretty technical and Dr
Christoph isn't very grand at English.  But the plain fact is, that
I've been a sick man and am now well, and that in five days' time
I'll be on the road for Blaweary, singing the 126th Psalm:


     "Among the heathen say the Lord
      Great things for us hath wrought."


Mr McCunn hummed a stave from the Scots metrical version to a
dolorous tune.

"You've been enjoying yourself fine," said Dougal.

The other pursed his lips.  "I would scarcely say that.  I've
enjoyed the fact of getting well, but I haven't altogether enjoyed
the process.  There were whiles when I was terrible bored, me that
used to boast that I had never been bored in my life.  The first
weeks it was like being back at the school.  I had my bits of walks
prescribed for me, and the hours when I was to lie on my back and
rest, and when I sat down to my meals there was a nurse behind my
chair to see that I ate the right things and didn't forget my
medicine.  I had an awful lot of time on my hands.  I doddered
about among the fir-woods--they're a careful folk, the Germans, and
have all the hillsides laid out like gentlemen's policies--nice
tidy walks, and seats to sit down on, and directions about the road
that I couldn't read.  I'll not deny that it's a bonny countryside--
in its way, but the weather was blazing hot and I got terrible
tired of these endless fir-trees.  It's a monotonous place, for
when you get to the top of one rig there's another of the same
shape beyond, covered with the same woods.  Man, I got fair sick
for a sight of an honest bald-faced hill.

"Indoors," he went on, "it was just the same.  It's all very well
to be told to rest and keep your mind empty, but that was never my
way.  I brought out a heap of books with me, and was looking
forward to getting a lot of quiet reading done.  But the mischief
was that I couldn't settle to a book.  I had intended to read the
complete works of Walter Savage Landor--have you ever tried him,
Dougal?  I aye thought the quotations from him I came across most
appetising.  But I might as well have been reading a newspaper
upside down, for I couldn't keep my mind on him.  I suppose that my
thoughts having been so much concerned lately with my perishing
body had got out of tune for higher things.  So I fell back on Sir
Walter--I'm not much of a hand at novels, as you know, but I can
always read Scott--but I wasn't half through Guy Mannering when it
made me so homesick for the Canonry that I had to give it up.
After that I became a mere vegetable, a bored vegetable."

"You don't look very bored," said Dougal.

"Oh, it's been different the last weeks, when the doctor told me I
was cured, for I've been pretty nearly my own master.  I've had
some grand long walks--what you would call training walks, for I
was out just for the exercise and never minded the scenery.  I've
sweated pounds and pounds of adipose tissue off my bones.  I hired
a car, too, and got Peter Wappit to drive it, and I've been
exploring the countryside for fifty miles round.  I've found some
fine scenery and some very respectable public-houses.  You'll be
surprised that I mention them, but the fact is that my mind has
been dwelling shamelessly on food and drink.  I've never been so
hungry in all my days.  I'm allowed to eat anything I like, but the
trouble is that you can't get it in this house.  The food is
deplorable for a healthy man.  Endless veal, which I cannot bide--
and what they call venison, but is liker goat--and wee blue trouts
that are as wersh as the dowp of a candle--and they've a nasty
habit of eating plums and gooseberries with butcher's meat.  I'll
admit the coffee is fine, but they've no kind of notion of tea.
Tea has always been my favourite meal, but here you never see a
scone or a cookie--just things like a baby's rusks, and sweet cakes
that you very soon scunner at.  So I've had to supplement my diet
at adjacent publics. . . .  I tell you what, Dougal, Peter is a
perfect disgrace.  It's preposterous that a man should have been
two years in jyle in Germany and have picked up so little of the
language.  He just stammers and glowers and makes noises like a
clocking hen, and it's me that has to do the questioning, with
about six words of the tongue and every kind of daft-like grimace
and contortion.  If the Germans weren't an easy-tempered folk we'd
have had a lot of trouble.

"But, thank God," said Mr McCunn, "that's all very near by with.
I've got back my health and now I want something to occupy my mind
and body."  He pushed back his chair, stood up, doubled his fists
and made playful taps at Dougal's chest to prove his vigour.

"What about yourself, Dougal?" he said.  "Let's hear what you've
been up to.  Is Mr Craw still trying to redd up the affairs of
Europe?"

"He is.  That's the reason I'm out here.  And that's the reason
I've come to see you.  I want your advice."

"In that case," said Mr McCunn solemnly, "we'd be the better of a
drink.  Beer is allowed here, and it's a fine mild brew.  We'll
have a tankard apiece."

"Now," said he, when the tankards had been brought, and he was
comfortably settled again in his chair, "I'm waiting on your story.
Where have you come from?"

"From Evallonia."

For a moment or two Dickson did not speak.  The word set his mind
digging into memories which had been heavily overlaid.  In
particular he recalled an autumn night on a Solway beach when in
the moonlight a cutter swung down the channel with the tide.  He
saw a young man under whose greatcoat was a gleam of tartan, and he
remembered vividly a scene which for him had been one of tense
emotion.  On the little finger of his left hand he wore that young
man's ring.

"Aye, Evallonia," he murmured.  "That's where you would be.  And
how are things going in Evallonia?"

"Bad.  They couldn't be worse.  Listen, Mr McCunn, and I'll give
you the rudiments of a perfectly ridiculous situation."

Dickson listened, and his occasional grunts told of his lively
interest.  When Dougal had finished, he remained for a little
silent and frowning heavily.  Then he began to ask questions.

"You say the Monarchists have got everything arranged and can put
Prince John on the throne whenever they're so minded?  Can they put
up a good Government?"

"I think so.  They've plenty of brains among them and plenty of
experience.  Count Casimir Muresco is a sort of lesser Cavour.
I've seen a good deal of him and can judge.  You'll remember him?"

"Aye, I mind him well.  I thought he had some kind of a business
head.  Prince Odalchini was a fine fellow, but a wee thing in the
clouds.  What about the Professor--Jagon, I think they called him?"

"He has gone over to Juventus.  Discovered that it fulfilled his
notion of democracy.  He was a maggotty old body."

"Well, he'll maybe not be much loss.  You say that there's a good
Government waiting for Evallonia, but that this Juv-Juventus thing--
that's Latin isn't it?--won't hear of it because they didn't
invent it themselves.  What kind of shape would they make at
running the country?"

"Bad, I think.  They've brains, but no experience, and not much
common sense.  They're drunk with fine ideas and as full of pride
as an old blackcock, but they're babes and sucklings at the job of
civil administration."

"But they've power behind them?"

"All the power there is in Evallonia.  They've an armed force
uncommon well trained and disciplined--you never saw a more
upstanding lot of lads.  The National Guard, which is all the army
that is permitted under the Peace Treaty, is good enough in its
way, but it's small, and the people don't give a hang for it.
Juventus has captured the fancy of the nation, and with these
Eastern European folk, that means that the battle is won.  They can
no more make a good Government than they could square the circle,
but they can play the devil with any Government that they don't
approve of.  You may say that the real motive power in Evallonia
to-day is destructive.  But they'll have to set up some sort of
figure-head--one of themselves, though there's nobody very obvious--
and that will mean an infernal mess, the old futile dictatorship
ran-dan, and no end of trouble with the Powers.  I've the best
reason to be positive on that point, for Mr Craw has seen--" and he
mentioned certain august names.

Dickson asked one other question.  "What about the Republicans?"

Dougal laughed.  "Oh, their number's up all right.  Whoever is top-
dog, they're bound to be the bottom one for many a day.  They've
their bags packed waiting to skip over the frontier.  But they'll
do their best, of course, to make the mischief worse.  Mastrovin,
especially.  If he's caught in Evallonia he'll get short shrift,
but he'll be waiting outside to put spokes in the wheels."

"Yon's the bad one," said Dickson reflectively.  "When he is
thrawn, he has a face that's my notion of the Devil. . . .  It
seems that Juventus is the proposition we have to consider.  What
ails Juventus at Prince John?"

"Nothing.  They've no ill-will to him--only he's not their man.
What they dislike is his supporters."

"Why?"

"Simply because they're the old gang and associated in their minds
with all the misfortunes and degradation of Evallonia since the
War.  Juventus is thinking of a new world, and won't have any truck
with the old.  They're new brooms, and are blind to the merits of
the old besoms.  They're like laddies at school, Mr McCunn--when
catties come in they won't look at a bool or a girr."

Dickson whistled morosely through his teeth.

"I see," he said.  "Well, it looks ugly.  What kind of advice do
you want from me?"

"I want a business-like view of the situation from a wise man, and
you can't get that in Evallonia."

"But how in the name of goodness can I give you any kind of view
when I don't know the place or the folk?"

"I've tried to put the lay-out before you, and I want the common
sense of a detached observer.  You may trust my facts.  I've done
nothing but make inquiries for the last month, for the thing is
coming between Mr Craw and his sleep.  I've seen Count Casimir and
all his lot and talked with them till my brain was giddy.  I've
taken soundings in Evallonian public opinion, to which I had pretty
good access."

"Have you seen much of Juventus?"

Dougal drew down the corners of his mouth.

"Not a great deal.  You see, it's a secret society, and you can no
more get inside it than into a lodge of Masons.  I've talked, of
course, to a lot of the rank-and-file, and I can judge their
keenness and their popular support.  There was one of them I
particularly wanted to see--a woman called Countess Troyos--but I
was warned that if I went near her she would have me shot against a
wall--she's a ferocious Amazon and doesn't like journalists.  But I
managed to get an interview with one of the chiefs, a certain Count
Paul Jovian, a son of the Jovian that was once a Republican
Minister.  It was that interview that gave me the notion of coming
to you, for this Count Paul has some rudiments of sense, and has
lived a lot in England, and I could see that he was uneasy about
the way things were going.  He didn't say much, but he hinted that
there ought to be some sort of compromise with the Monarchists, so
there's one man at any rate that will accept a reasonable deal. . . .
And Jaikie whispered as much to me before I left."

"Jaikie!"  The word came almost like a scream from the startled Mr
McCunn.  "I thought he was on a walking-tour in France."

"Well, he has walked into Evallonia.  He was with Count Paul, whom
it seems he knew at Cambridge.  He told me he was a prisoner."

"How was he behaving himself?"

"Just as Jaikie would.  Pretending to be good and meek and sleepy.
The same old flat-catcher.  If Juventus knew the type of fellow
Jaikie was they wouldn't rest till they saw him safe in bed in the
Canonry."

Dickson grinned.  "I'm sure they wouldn't."  But the grin soon
faded.  He strode up and down the little verandah with his head
bowed and his hands clasped behind his back.  He did this for
perhaps five minutes, and then, with a "Just you bide here" to his
companion, he disappeared into the house.

He was absent for the better part of an hour, and when he returned
it was with a gloomy and puzzled countenance.

"I got the Head Schwester to telephone for me to Katzensteg to the
aerodrome.  There's some jukery-pukery on, and it seems I can't get
a machine for the job.  The frontier is closed to private planes
and only the regular air service is allowed."

"Whatever do you want an aeroplane for?" Dougal asked.

"To get to Evallonia," said Dickson simply.  "I've never been in
one, but they tell me it's the quickest way to travel.  There'll be
nothing for it but to go by road.  I'll have to attend strictly to
the map, for Peter has no more sense of direction than a sheep."

"But what will you do when you get there?"

"I thought of having a crack with Prince Odalchini in the first
place. . . ."

"The thing's impossible," Dougal cried.  "Man, the country is
already almost in a state of siege.  Juventus won't let you near
the Prince.  They're sitting three-deep round his park wall.  They
carted me over the frontier yesterday with instructions that I
wasn't to come back if I valued my life--and, mind you, I had their
safe conduct."

"All the same, I must find some way of getting to him."  In
Dickson's voice there was a note of dismal obstinacy which Dougal
knew well.

"But it's perfectly ridiculous," said Dougal.  "I wish to Heaven I
had never come here.  You can't do a bit of good to anybody and you
can do the devil of a lot of harm to yourself."

"I can see the place and some of the folk, and give you that
business advice you said you wanted."

"You'll see nothing except the inside of a guardroom," Dougal
wailed.  "Listen to reason, Mr McCunn.  I must be in Vienna to-
morrow, for I have to sign a contract about paper for Mr Craw.
Stay quietly here till I come back, and then maybe we'll be able to
think of a plan."

"I can't," said Dickson.  "I must go at once. . . .  See here,
Dougal.  Do you observe that ring?"  He held up his left hand.  "I
got it two years back come October on the Solway sands.  'I've
gotten your ring, Sire,' I says to him, 'and if I get the word from
you I'll cross the world.'  Well, the word has come.  Not direct
from Prince John, maybe, but from what they call the logic of
events.  I would think shame to be found wanting.  It's maybe the
great chance of my life. . . .  Where more by token is his Royal
Highness?"

"How should I know?" said Dougal wearily.  "Not in Evallonia, but
lurking somewhere near, waiting on a summons that will likely never
come.  Poor soul, I don't envy him his job. . . .  And you're going
to stick your head into a bees' byke, when nobody asks you to.  You
say it's your sense of duty.  If that's so, it's a misguided sense
not very different from daftness.  My belief is that the real
reason is that you're looking for excitement.  You're too young.
You're like a horse with too much corn.  You're doing this because
it amuses you."

"It doesn't," was the solemn answer.  "Make no mistake about that,
Dougal.  I'm simply longing to be back at Blaweary.  I want to be
on the river again--I hear the water's in fine trim--and I want to
get on with my new planting--I'm trying Douglas firs this time. . . .
I don't care a docken for Evallonia and its politics.  But I'm
pledged to Prince John, and in all my sixty-three years I've never
broken my word.  I'm sweir to go--I'll tell you something more, I'm
feared to go.  I've never had much truck with foreigners, and their
ways are not my ways, and I value my comfort as much as anybody.
That was why I tried to get an aeroplane, for I thought it would
commit me and get the first plunge over, for I was feared of
weakening.  As it is I'll have to content myself with the car and
that sumph Peter Wappit.  But some way or other I'm bound to go."

Dougal's grim face relaxed into an affectionate smile.

"You're a most extraordinary man.  I'll not argue with you, for I
know it's about as much good as making speeches to a tombstone.
I'll go back to Evallonia as soon as my business is finished, and I
only hope I don't see your head stuck up on a spike on Melina gate-
house."

"Do you think that's possible?" Dickson asked with a curious
mixture of alarm and rapture.

"Not a bit of it.  I was only joking.  The worst that can happen is
that you and Peter will be sent back over the border with a flea in
your ear.  If Juventus catches you they'll deport you as a harmless
lunatic. . . .  But for God's sake don't get into the same parish
as Mastrovin."



VI

ARRIVALS AT AN INN


Sir Archibald Roylance drove a motor-car well but audaciously, so
that he disquieted the nerves of those who accompanied him; his new
servant McTavish drove better, and with a regard for the psychology
of others which made a journey with him as smooth as a trip in the
Scotch express.  The party left Unnutz early in the morning before
the guests of the Kaiserin Augusta were out of bed, and since they
had many miles to cover, Archie insisted on taking McTavish's place
for a spell every three hours.  All day under a blue sky they
threaded valleys, and traversed forests, and surmounted low passes
among the ranges, and since the air was warm and the landscape
seductive, they did not hurry unduly.  Lunch, for example, on a
carpet of moss beside a plunging stream, occupied a full two hours.
The consequence was that when they came out of the hills and
crossed the Rave and saw before them the lights of the little
railway station of Zutpha, it was already evening.  Clearly not a
time to pay a call upon Prince Odalchini, who did not expect them.
Archie inquired of McTavish where was the nearest town, and was
told Tarta, where the inn of the Turk's Head had a name for
comfort.  All the party was hungry and a little weary, so it was
agreed to make for Tarta.

The car took a country road which followed the eastern side of
Prince Odalchini's great park.  Passing through Zutpha village,
Archie, whose turn it was then to drive, noticed a number of youths
who appeared to be posted on some kind of system.  They stared at
the car, and at first seemed inclined to interfere with it.  But
something--the road it was taking or the badges on the front of its
bonnet--satisfied them, a word was passed from one to the other,
and they let it go.  They wore shorts, and shirts of a colour which
could not be distinguished in the dark.

"Juventus," Archie turned his head to whisper.  "We've come to the
right shop.  Thank heaven the lads don't want to stand between us
and dinner."

Soon the road, which had lain among fields of maize and beet,
turned into the shadow of woods, and was joined by many tributary
tracks.  Archie, who had a good sense of direction, knew the point
of the compass where Tarta lay, and had an occasional glimpse of
the park paling on his right to keep him straight.  He was driving
carelessly, for the road seemed deserted, and his mind was occupied
in wondering what kind of fare the Turk's Head would give them,
when in turning a corner he saw a yard or two ahead a stationary
car, drawn up dangerously in a narrow place.  He clapped on his
brakes, for there was no room to pass it, since its nose was poked
beyond the middle of the road, and came to a standstill in a
crooked echelon, his off front wheel all but touching its running
board.

Archie, like many casual people, was easily made indignant by
casualness in others.  On this occasion surprise made him indignant
in his own language.  "You fool!" he shouted.  "Will you have the
goodness to shift your dashed perambulator?"

One man sat stiffly at the wheel.  The other was apparently engaged
in examining a map with the assistance of the headlight.  It was
the latter who replied.

"Peter," he said, "they're English.  Thank God for that."

The map-student straightened himself, and stood revealed in the
glare of the big acetylene lamps as a smallish man in a tweed
ulster.  He took off his spectacles, blinked in the dazzle, and
came deferentially towards Archie.  His smile was so ingratiating
that that gentleman's irritation vanished.

"That's a silly thing to do," was all he said.  "If my brakes
hadn't been good we'd have had a smash."

"I'm awful sorry.  Peter lost his head, I doubt.  You see, we've
missed our road."

Something in the voice, with its rich Scots intonation, in the
round benignant face, and in the friendly peering eyes stirred a
recollection in Archie which he could not place.  But he was not
allowed time to drag the deeps of his memory.  Alison from the back
seat descended like a tornado, and was grasping the stranger's
hand.

"Dickson," she cried, "who'd have thought of finding you here?
You're a sight for sore eyes."

The little man beamed.

"'Deed, so are you, Miss Alison.  Mercy, but it's a queer world."

"This is Sir Archie Roylance.  You know him?  Aren't you a
neighbour of his?"

Dickson extended a grimy hand.

"Fine I know him, though I haven't seen him for years.  D'you not
mind the Gorbals Die-hards, Sir Archibald, and Huntingtower where
you and me fought a battle?"

"Golly, it's McCunn!" Archie exclaimed.

"And not a day older--"

"And that," said Alison, waving a hand towards the back of her car,
"is my cousin Janet--Lady Roylance."

Dickson bowed, and, since he was too far off to shake hands, also
saluted.

"Proud to meet you, mem.  This is a fair gathering of the clans.  I
never thought when I started this morning to run into a covey of
friends."  The encounter seemed to have lifted care from his mind,
for he beamed delightedly on each member of the party, not
excluding McTavish.

"But what are you doing here?" Alison repeated.  "I thought you
were ill and at some German cure place."

"I've been miraculously restored to health," said Dickson solemnly.
"And I'm here because I want to have a word with a man.  You know
him, Miss Alison--Prince Odalchini."

"But that's what we're here for too," the girl said.

"You don't tell me that.  Have you tried to get inside his gates?
That's what I've been seeking to do, and they wouldn't let me."

"Who wouldn't let you?"

"A lot of young lads in short breeks and green sarks.  My
directions were to go to a place called Zutpha, which was the
proper way in.  I found the lodge gates all right, but they were
guarded like a penitentiary.  I told the lads who I was seeking and
got a lot of talk in a foreign language.  I didn't understand a
word, but the meaning was plain enough that if I didn't clear out I
would get my neck wrung.  One of them spoke German, and according
to Peter what he said was the German for 'Go to hell out of this.'
So I just grinned at them and nodded and told Peter to turn the
car, for I saw it was no good running my head against a stone dyke.
So now I'm looking for a town called Tarta, where I can bide the
night and think things over."

"But what do you want with Prince Odalchini?"

"It's a long story, and this is not the place to tell it.  It was
Dougal that set me off.  Dougal Crombie--you remember him at Castle
Gay?"

"Dougal!  You have seen him?"

"No farther back than the day before yesterday.  He's in Vienna
now.  He came seeking me, for Dougal's sore concerned about this
Evallonia business.  Jaikie is in it, too.  He had seen Jaikie."

"Where is Jaikie?" Alison asked, her voice shrill with excitement.

"Somewhere hereabouts.  Dougal says he's a prisoner and in the
hands of the same lads that shoo'ed me away from the Prince's
gates."

Here Archie intervened.  "This conference must adjourn," he said.
"We're all famishing and Mr McCunn is as hungry as the rest of us.
Dinner is the first objective.  I'll back my car, and you"--he
addressed Peter Wappit--"go on ahead.  It's a straight road, and
the town isn't five miles off.  We can't talk here by the roadside,
especially with Alison shrieking like a pea-hen.  If Juventus has
got the wind up, it's probably lurking three deep in these bushes."

The hostelry of the Turk's Head drew its name from the days when
John Sobieski drove the Black Sultan from the walls of Vienna.
Part of it was as old as the oldest part of the Schloss, and indeed
at one time it may have formed an outlying appanage of the castle.
In the eighteenth century, in the heyday of the Odalchinis, it was
a cheerful place, where great men came with their retinues, and
where in the vast kitchen the Prince's servitors and foresters
drank with the townfolk of Tarta.  It still remained the principal
inn of the little borough, but Tarta had decayed, and it stood on
no main road, so while its tap-room was commonly full, its guest-
rooms were commonly empty.  But the landlord had been valet in his
youth to the Prince's father, and he had a memory of past glories
and an honest pride in his profession; besides, he was a wealthy
man, the owner of the best vineyard in the neighbourhood.  So the
inn had never been allowed to get into disrepair; its rambling
galleries, though they echoed to the tread of few guests, were kept
clean and fresh; the empty stalls in the big stables were ready at
a moment's notice for the horses that never came; there was good
wine in the cellars against the advent of a connoisseur.  It stood
in an alley before you reached the market-place, and its courtyard
and back parts lay directly under the shadow of the castle walls.

The newcomers were received like princes.  The landlord was well
disposed to English milords, the class to which, from a glance at
his card, he judged Archie to belong.  Janet and Alison were his
notion of handsome gentlewomen, for, being swarthy himself, he
preferred them blonde; the two chauffeurs looked respectable;
Dickson he could not place, but he had the carelessness of dress
which in a Briton suggested opulence.  So there was a scurrying of
chambermaids in the galleries and a laborious preparation of hip-
baths; the cars were duly bestowed in one of the old coach-houses,
and the landlord himself consulted with Archie about dinner.
McTavish and Peter were to be accommodated with their meals in a
room by themselves--in old days, said the landlord, it had been the
sitting-room of the Imperial couriers.  The ladies and gentlemen
would dine at the hour fixed in the grand parlour, which had some
famous ancient carvings which learned men journeyed many miles to
see.  They would have the room to themselves--there were no other
guests in the house. . . .  He departed to see to the wine with a
candlestick as large as a soup tureen.

The dinner was all that the landlord had promised.  There was trout
from the hills--honest, speckled trout--and a pie of partridges
slain prematurely--and what Archie pronounced to be the best beef
he had eaten outside England--and an omelet of kidneys and
mushrooms--and little tartlets of young raspberries.  It was a meal
which Dickson was to regard as an epoch in his life; for, coming
after the bare commons of Rosensee, it was a sort of festival in
honour of his restored health.  They drank a mild burgundy, and a
sweet wine of the Tokay clan, and a local liqueur bottled forty
years ago, and the coffee with which they concluded might have been
brewed by the Ottoman whose severed head decorated the inn's sign.

"Dickson," Alison asked solemnly, "are you really and truly well
again?"

"I'm a new man," was the answer.  "Ay, and a far younger man.  I
aye said, Miss Alison, that I was old but not dead-old.  I've an
awful weight of years behind me, but for all that at this moment
I'm feeling younger than when I retired from business.  They tell
me that you've been to Dr Christoph too, Sir Archibald?"

"He's a warlock," said Archie.  "I had got as lame as a duck, and
he made me skip like a he-goat on the mountains.  I daren't presume
too far, of course, or the confounded leg may sour on me.  I got
the most foul cramps the other day after a hill walk."

"Same with me," said Dickson.  "The doctor says I may be a well
body till the end of my days if I just go easy.  I'm not very good
at ca'ing canny, so no doubt I'll have my relapses and my rheumatic
turns.  But that's a small cross to bear.  It's not half as bad as
the gout that the old gentry used to get."

"Everybody," said Archie, "has gout--or its equivalent.  It's part
of man's destiny.  Chacun à son goût, as they say in Gaul."

The miserable witticism was very properly ignored.  It was Alison
who brought them back to business.  "I want to hear what Dougal
said," she told Dickson.  "I came here because Jaikie wrote telling
me to.  I haven't a notion where he is--I thought he was on his way
home by this time.  Archie and Janet came to keep me company.
We're all bound for the same house--if we can get in.  Now tell me--
very slowly--everything that Dougal said."

Dickson, as well as he could, expounded Dougal's reading of
Evallonian affairs.  There was nothing new to his auditors in the
exposition, for it was very much what they already knew from
McTavish.

"What I don't understand," said Alison, "is what Dougal thought you
could do, Dickson."

"I suppose," was the modest answer, "that he wanted a business-like
view of the situation."

"But how could you give him that when you know so little about it?"

"That's just what I told him.  I said that before I could help to
redd up the mischief I had to discover exactly what the mischief
was.  That's why I came on here."

"You're a marvel," said Alison with wide eyes.  "I didn't know you
were so keen about Evallonia."

"I'm not.  I don't care a docken about Evallonia.  But, you see,
I'm under a kind of bond, Miss Alison.  You'll mind the night in
the Canonry when I saw Prince John off in a boat.  He gave me this
ring"--he held up his left hand--"and I said to him that if ever I
got the word I would cross the world to help him."

"He sent for you?"

"Not exactly.  But the poor young man is evidently in sore
difficulties, and I--well, I remembered my promise.  I daresay
he'll be the better of a business mind to advise him.  Dougal, I
could see, thought me daft, but I'm sane enough.  I don't
particularly fancy the job, for I'm wearying to get home, but there
it is.  I thought I'd first have a crack with Prince Odalchini and
get the lay-out right.  And then--"

"Then?"

"Then I must find Prince John, and the dear knows how I'll manage
that."

A glance from Alison prevented Archie from saying something.

"It's more important," she said, "that you should find Jaikie."

"I daresay that will be the way of it," Dickson smiled.  "He's a
prisoner, and at Zutpha to-day I thought I would soon be a prisoner
too, and would run up against Jaikie in some jyle."

"Jaikie," said Alison, "told me to come here, for he needed me.
That means that sooner or later he'll be here too.  They can't
prevent us getting into the House of the Four Winds if we're Prince
Odalchini's friends.  It isn't war yet."

"It is not a bad imitation."  A new voice spoke, and the four at
the table, who had been intent on their talk, turned startled faces
to the door.  A tall man had quietly insinuated himself into the
room, and was now engaged in turning the key in the lock.  He had a
ragged blond beard, and a face the colour of an autumn beech leaf:
he wore an ill-cut grey suit and a vulgar shirt; also he had a
Brigade tie.

"Good evening," he said pleasantly.  "How are you, Roylance?
Proser--that's the landlord--is a friend of mine and told me you
were here."  He smiled and bowed to Janet, and then he stopped
short, registering extreme surprise on a face not accustomed to
such manifestations.  "Cousin Alison!  My dear, what magic spirited
you here?"

"Thank God!" Alison exclaimed fervently.  "I've been thinking of
you all day, Ran, and longing to get hold of you.  This is Mr
Dickson McCunn, who is a friend of Jaikie--you remember Jaikie at
the Lamanchas?  I don't know why you're here--I don't quite know
why any of us are here--but here we are, and we must do something.
By the way, you were saying as you slunk in--?"

"I was observing that the present state of affairs was a rather
good imitation of war.  How shall I put it?  The Monarchists
control the centre of Evallonia and the capital and can strike
there when they please.  Juventus is in power round the whole
circumference of the country.  They control its outlets and inlets--
a very important point."

"That's why they are besieging the castle here?"

"Not besieging.  Keeping it under observation.  There has been as
yet no overt act of hostility."

"But they are taking prisoners.  They've pinched Jaikie."

Mr Glynde's nil admirari countenance for a second time in five
minutes registered surprise.

"Jaikie?" he cried.  "What do you mean?"

"He is in the hands of Juventus.  He has been seen in captivity.
Do you know anything about him?"  Alison's voice had the sharpness
of anxiety.

"I had the pleasure of meeting your Jaikie a few days ago up in the
hills.  I encouraged him to pay a visit to Evallonia.  I helped to
entertain him at luncheon with Prince Odalchini, when we tried to
make him prolong his visit.  You see, I had taken a fancy to Mr
Jaikie and thought that he might be useful.  I was to meet him that
evening, but he never turned up, so I assumed that he was tired of
my company, and had gone back across the frontier as he intended.
It seems that I have misjudged him.  He is a prisoner of Juventus,
you say?  That must be the doing of his friend Count Paul, and it
looks as if all parties were competing for his company.  Well, it
may not be a bad thing, for it gives us an ally in the enemy's
camp.  You look troubled, Alison dear, but you needn't worry.
Count Paul Jovian is not a bad sort of fellow, and I am inclined to
think that Jaikie is very well able to look after himself."

"I'm not worrying about Jaikie, but about ourselves.  I came here
because Jaikie sent for me, and that means that he expects to meet
me.  He named Prince Odalchini's house.  But how are we to get into
it, if Juventus spends all its time squatting round it?"

"I think that can be managed," said Mr Glynde.  "You have greatly
relieved my mind, my dear.  If Jaikie means to come to the House of
the Four Winds, he will probably manage it, and he may be a most
valuable link with the enemy.  You must understand that Juventus is
by no means wholly the enemy, but may with a little luck become a
friend. . . .  By the way, just how much do you know about the
situation?"

He proceeded by means of question and answer to probe their
knowledge, directing his remarks to Alison at first, but later to
Dickson, when he perceived that gentleman's keenness.

"I must tell you one piece of bad news," and his voice became
grave.  "I have just heard it.  Prince John was in hiding in a
certain place, waiting for the summons, for everything depends on
his safety, and all precautions had to be taken.  But his enemies
discovered his retreat, and he has been kidnapped.  We know who did
it--Mastrovin, the most dangerous and implacable of them all."

He was puzzled to find that the announcement did not solemnise his
hearers.  Indeed, with the exception of Dickson, it seemed to amuse
them.  But Dickson was aghast.

"Mercy on us!" he cried.  "That's an awful business.  I mind
Mastrovin, and a blackguard murdering face he had.  I must away at
once--"

"It is the worst thing that could have happened," Mr Glynde
continued.  "They may kill him, and with him the hope of Evallonia.
In any case it fatally disarranges the Monarchist plans. . . .
What on earth is amusing you, Roylance?" he concluded testily.

Archie spoke, in obedience to a nod from Alison.

"Sorry," he said.  "But the fact is we got in ahead of old
Mastrovin.  We were at Unnutz, and saw what he was up to, so we
nipped in and pinched the Prince ourselves."

"Good God!"  Mr Glynde for a moment could only stare.  "Who knows
about that?"

"Nobody, except us."

"Where have you put him?"

"At this moment he is upstairs having his supper along with Mr
McCunn's chauffeur.  His present job is to be my servant--name of
McTavish--passport and everything according to Cocker."

For the third time that evening Mr Glynde was staggered.  He rose
and strode about the room, and his blue eyes had a dancing light in
them.

"I begin to hope," he cried.  "No, I begin to be confident.  This
freak of fate shows that the hussy is on our side."  He took a
glass from the sideboard and filled himself a bumper of the local
liqueur.  "I drink to you mountebanks.  You have beaten all my
records.  I have always loved you, Janet.  I adore you, Alison, my
dear, and I have been writing you some exquisite poetry.  Eructavit
cor meum as the Vulgate says--now I shall write you something still
more exquisite.  Roylance, you are a man after my own heart.  Where
are you going?" he asked, for Dickson had risen from the table.

"I thought I would go up and have a word with His Royal Highness."

"You'll do nothing of the kind.  Sit down.  And drop the Royal
Highness business."  Mr Glynde pulled a chair up to the table and
leaned his elbows on it.  "We must go very carefully in this
business.  You have done magnificently, but it's still dangerous
ground.  You say nobody knows of it except ourselves.  Well, not
another soul must know of it.  Mastrovin is out to kill or spirit
away Prince John--he must believe that the Prince is lost.  Casimir
and the Monarchists must believe that Mastrovin is the villain and
go out hot on his trail--that will have the advantage of
demobilising the Monarchists, which is precisely what is wanted at
present.  The Prince must be tucked away carefully till we want
him--and when and how we will want him depends on the way things
go.  Oh, I can tell you we have scored one mighty big point which
may give us the game and the rubber.  But he can't stay here as
your servant."

"It's a pretty good camouflage," said Archie.  "He's the image of a
respectable English valet, and I'm dashed if he hasn't picked up a
Scotch accent, like the real McTavish.  You'd have to examine him
with a microscope before you spotted the Prince.  He's a first-
class actor, and it amuses him, so he puts his heart into it."

"Nevertheless it is too dangerous.  You people will be moving in
the wrong circles, and sooner or later he'll give himself away, or
somebody will turn up that has known him from childhood.  Luckily
he hasn't been much in Evallonia since he was a boy, but you never
know.  We must bury him deeper. . . .  Wait a moment.  I have it.
He shall go into my circus.  You may not know that I'm a circus
proprietor, Alison dear--the Cirque Doré--Glynde, late Aristide
Lebrun--the epochal, the encyclopædic, the grandiose.  We are
encamped in the environs of Tarta, and every night sprigs of
Juventus, who are admitted at half-price, applaud our performances.
The Prince shall join my staff--I will devise for him some sort of
turn--he will be buried there as deep as if he were under the Rave.
It will be a joyful irony that the enemies who are looking for him
will applaud his antics.  Then some day, please God, we will take
him out of tights and grease-paint and give him a throne."

Mr Glynde had become a poet, but he had not ceased to be a
conspirator.  "To-morrow morning," he told Archie, "you will inform
the landlord that you are sending your chauffeur home by road with
your car.  The cars will take your baggage to Zutpha, while you
will walk there at your leisure through a pleasant country to catch
the evening train.  Proser is a good man, but it is unkind to
burden even a good man with too much knowledge.  Roylance's
chauffeur will not again be heard of.  I will arrange about your
baggage and the cars."

"And what about us?" Archie asked.

"Before the evening--well before the evening, I hope--you will be
in the House of the Four Winds."

The party took an affectionate farewell of the landlord next
morning, their baggage was piled into the cars, luncheon baskets
were furnished, and Proser was informed that they meant to drive a
mile or two till they cleared the town, and then to spend the day
walking the woods on the left bank of the Rave, and catch the
evening train at Zutpha.  The cars would go straight to the railway
station.  There was no sign of Mr Randal Glynde.

McTavish, however, had been well coached.  They crossed the Rave
Bridge, passed the common where Jaikie had first met Count Paul,
and plunged into a thick belt of woodland which covered all the
country between the foothills and the river.  Here there was no
highway but many forest tracks, one in especial much rutted by
heavy wagons and showing the prints of monstrous feet.  The reason
of this was apparent after a mile or so, when a clearing revealed
the headquarters of the Cirque Doré.  It was not its show-ground--
that was in the environs of Tarta--but its base, where such animals
were kept as were not immediately required.  It was guarded by a
stout palisade, and many notices warning the public that wild
beasts lived there, and that they must not enter.

Mr Glynde was awaiting them, and one or two idlers hung around the
gate.  Archie caught, too, what he thought was a glimpse of a green
shirt.  Randal received them with the elaborate courtesies of a
circus proprietor welcoming distinguished patrons.  The chauffeurs
of the two cars he directed how to proceed to Zutpha.  "They will
return by another road in due course," he whispered to Alison, "but
it is altogether necessary that they should be seen to leave this
place."

Of what followed no member of the party had a very clear
recollection.  They were taken to a tent less odoriferous than the
rest, and provided with white caps on which the name of the circus
was embroidered in scarlet.  "We give a matinée to-day," said
Randal, "an extra performance asked for by Tarta.  It will be in a
dance-hall, and the programme is in Luigi's hands--gipsy dances and
songs and fiddling, for we are no mere vulgar menagerie.  You will
accompany the artistes back to Tarta.  Trust me, you will not be
suspected.  The Cirque Doré has become a common object of the
seashore."

So Archie and Janet, Alison and Dickson, joined a party which
crowded into an old Ford bus, and jolted back the way they had
come.  The dance-hall proved to be a building not far from the
Turk's Head, and it was already packed when the company arrived and
entered by a side door.  Randal deposited the four in a little room
behind the stage.  "You will lunch out of your baskets," he told
them, "while I supervise the start of the show.  When it is in full
swing I will come back."

So while fiddles jigged a yard or two off and the feet and hands of
Tarta citizens applauded, the four made an excellent meal and
conversed in whispers.  The circus cap was becoming to Alison and
Janet, and it made Archie look like a professional cricketer, but
on Dickson's head it sat like an incongruous cowl out of a
Christmas cracker.  "A daft-like thing," he observed, "but I'm long
past caring for appearances.  I doubt," he added prophetically,
"that there'll be a lot of dressing-up before we're through with
this business.  It's a pity that I've the kind of face you cannot
properly disguise.  Providence never meant me to be a play-actor."

Randal did not return for a good hour.  He seemed satisfied.  "The
coast is clear," he said, "and I've just had word from my camp that
everything is all right there.  Now we descend into the deeps, and
I'm afraid it will be rather a dusty business.  You can leave the
circus caps behind, and put on your proper headgear.  I hope you
two women have nothing on that will spoil."

He led them down a rickety wooden stair into a basement in which
were stored many queer properties; then out of doors into a small
dark courtyard above which beetled the walls of the castle.  In a
corner of this was a door, which he unlocked, and which led to
further stables, this time of ancient stone.  There followed a
narrow passage, another door, and then a cave of a room which
contained barrels and shelves and smelt of beer.

"We are now in the cellars of the Turk's Head," Randal expounded.
"Proser knows this road, and he knows that I know it, but he does
not know of our present visit."

From the beer cellar they passed into a smaller one, one end of
which was blocked by a massive wooden frame containing bottles in
tiers.  Randal showed that one part of this frame was jointed, and
that a section, bottles and all, formed a door.  He pulled this
back, and his electric torch revealed a low door in a stone wall.
It was bolted with heavy ancient bolts, but they seemed to have
been recently in use, for they slipped easily back.  Now he
evidently expected it to open, but it refused.  There was a
keyhole, but no key.

"Some fool must have locked it," he grumbled.  "It must have been
Proser, and I told him to leave the infernal thing open.  I'm
extremely sorry, but you'll have to wait here till I get a key.
It's filthy dirty, but you won't suffocate."

They did not suffocate, but they had a spell of weary waiting, for
the place was pitch-dark and no one of them had a light.  Dickson
tried to explore in the blackness, and ran his head hard against an
out-jutting beam, after which he sat down on the floor and slept.
Archie smoked five cigarettes, and did his best to keep up a flow
of conversation.  "This is the Middle Ages right enough," he said.
"We're making burglarious entry into an ancient Schloss, and I feel
creepy down the spine.  We didn't bargain for this Monte Cristo
business, Janet, when we left Geneva.  And the last thing I heard
that old ass Perrier say there was that the mediæval was out of
date."  But by and by he too fell silent, and it was a dispirited
and headachy company that at last saw the gleam of Mr Glynde's
torch.

"I humbly apologise," said Randal, "but I had a devil of a hunt for
Proser.  He had gone to see a cousin about his confounded vines.
He swears he never locked the door, so it must have been done from
the other side.  The people in the Schloss are evidently taking no
chances.  But I've got the key."

The thing opened readily, and the explorers repeated their recent
performance, threading a maze of empty cellars till they came to a
door which led to a staircase.  For a long time they seemed to be
climbing a spiral inside a kind of turret, and came at last to a
stage where thin slits of windows let in the daylight.  Archie
peered out and announced that in his opinion it must be about six
o'clock.  At last they reached a broad landing, beyond which
further steps appeared to ascend.  But there was also a door, which
Randal tackled confidently as if he expected it to open at once.

It refused to budge.  He examined it and announced that it was
locked.  "It is always kept open," he said.  "I've used it twenty
times lately.  What in thunder is the matter with it to-day?"

It was very plain what the matter was.  It had been barricaded by
some heavy object on the other side.  It moved slightly under his
pressure, but the barricade held fast.

"The nerves of this household have gone to blazes," he said.
"Roylance, lend a hand, and you, McCunn.  We must heave our weight
on it."

They heaved their weight, but it did not yield; indeed, they heaved
till the three men had no breath left in them.  There was a
creaking and grinding beyond, but the heavy body, whatever it was,
held its ground.  They laboured for the better part of an hour, and
by and by made a tiny aperture between door and doorpost.  The door
was too strong to splinter, but Archie got a foot in the crack and,
supported by vigorous pressure from behind, slowly enlarged it.
Then something seemed to topple down with a crash beyond the door,
and they found that it yielded.  They squeezed past a big Dutch
armoire, from the top of which had fallen a marble torso of
Hercules.

Randal was now on familiar ground.  The noise they had made had
woken no response in the vast silent house.  He led them through
stone passages, and then into carpeted corridors, and through rooms
hung with tapestries and pictures.  There was no sign of servants
or of any human life, but Janet and Alison, feeling the approach of
civilisation, tried to tidy their hair, and Mr McCunn passed a silk
handkerchief over a damp forehead.  At last, when it seemed that
they had walked for miles, Randal knocked at a door and was bidden
enter.

It was a small room lined with books, aglow with the sunset which
came through a tall window.  In a chair sat an old man in a suit of
white linen, and on a couch beside him a youthful and dishevelled
figure which was refreshing itself with a glass of beer.



VII

"SI VIEILLESSE POUVAIT"


Mr John Galt had reason to seek refreshment, for he had had an
eventful afternoon.

He had spent two days not unpleasantly in the camp of that wing of
Juventus which Ashie commanded.  ("Wing" was their major unit of
division: they borrowed their names from the Romans, and Ashie was
"Praefectus Alae.")  He was a prisoner, but in honourable
captivity--an English friend of the Commander, detained not because
he was hostile, but because of the delicacy of the situation.
Ashie introduced him to the subordinate officers, and he found them
a remarkable collection.  There were old soldiers among them who
attended to the military side, but there were also a number of
young engineers and business men and journalists, who all had their
special duties.  Juventus, it appeared, was not only a trained and
disciplined force, the youth of a nation in arms for defence and,
it might be, offence; it was also an organisation for national
planning and economic advancement.  The recruits were brigaded
outside their military units in groups according to their training
and professions, and in each group were regular conferences and an
elaborate system of education.  Jaikie attended a meeting of an oil
group, oil being one of Evallonia's major industries, and was
impressed by the keenness of the members and the good sense of the
discussions, so far as they were explained to him.  This was no
mere ebullition of militarism, but something uncommonly like a
national revival.  He realised that it was not one man's making.  A
leader would no doubt be necessary when Juventus took a hand in
politics, but the movement itself had welled up from below.  It was
the sum of the spontaneous efforts of a multitude of people of all
types and degrees, who had decided that they were tired of toy-
shops and blind alleys and must break for open country.

Jaikie was a good mixer and very soon had made friends among the
rank-and-file as well as among the officers.  His meek cheerfulness
and the obvious affection which the Commander showed for him were
passports to their good-will.  The language he found to be scarcely
a difficulty at all.  Most of the Evallonian youth had at least a
smattering of English and many spoke it well, for it had long been
in the schools the one obligatory foreign tongue.  The second day
he played in a Rugby game, a purifying experience on a torrid
afternoon.  Sports and gymnastics had a large part in Juventus, and
every afternoon was consecrated to them.  Ashie must have spread
his fame, for he was invited to join the Blue fifteen, and was
permitted to fill his old place at right wing three-quarters.  It
was a fierce, swift and not very orthodox game, the forwards doing
most of the work, and the tackling being clumsy and uncertain.  But
he found that one or two of his side had a fair notion of the
business, and some of them had certainly a fine turn of speed.  One
especially, the centre three-quarter next him, had clearly played a
good deal, and now and then there was quite a creditable bout of
passing.  Jaikie had not a great deal of work to do, but in the
second half he got the ball and scored a try, after a spectacular
but not very difficult run down the field.  However, that kind of
run was apparently new to Evallonia, and it was received by the
spectators with delirious applause.

Afterwards, when he was having a drink, Ashie introduced him to the
centre, whose name was Ivar.  The boy regarded him with open-eyed
admiration.

"You have played for the English college of the Praefectus?" he
asked respectfully.

"For a good deal more than that," said Ashie.  "Mr Galt is one of
the most famous players in the world.  He is what they call an
International, and is the pride of his nation, which is Scotland."

Ivar gasped.

"Scotland!  That is a famous land.  I have read romances about it.
Its men dress like women but fight like lions.  It loves freedom
and has always helped other people to become free."

Jaikie had a walk with Ivar within the limits of the cantonment and
discovered a strong liking for the boy's solemn enthusiasm.  Ivar,
it appeared, was a young electrical engineer and had been destined
to a post in Brazil when Juventus called him.  Now his ambition was
limited to the immediate future, the great patriotic effort which
the next few weeks would demand.  He did not talk of it, for
Juventus was schooled to reticence, but the light of it was in his
eyes.  But he spoke much of Evallonia, and Jaikie learned one thing
from him--there was complete loyalty to the ideal of the cause, but
no one leader had laid his spell upon it.  Ivar mentioned with
admiration and affection many names--Ashie's among them--but there
was no one that dominated the rest.  "When we triumph," he said,
"we will call to our aid all good men."

"Including the Monarchists?" Jaikie asked.

"Including the Monarchists, if they be found worthy."

They stood for a little on a ridge above the camp, where ran the
high road along which Ashie's car had brought him.  It was a clear
evening and there was a wide prospect.  Jaikie, who had his
countrymen's uneasiness till he had the points of the compass in
his head, was now able to orientate his position.  The camp was in
a crook of the Rave before it bent eastward in the long curve which
took it to Melina.  To the south he saw the confines of a big park,
and to the east the smoke of a far-away train.

Ivar was glad to enlighten him.

"That is the nearest railway," he said.  "The station of Zutpha is
four miles off, beyond where you see the cornfield in sheaf.  Yes,
that is a nobleman's park, the castle called the House of the Four
Winds.  At the other side is the little city of Tarta, once a busy
place, but now mouldering."

Jaikie asked who owned the castle.

"It is Prince Odalchini," said the boy with a grave face.  "A
famous house, the Odalchinis, and we of Juventus are not rootless
Communists to despise ancient things.  But this Prince Odalchini is
an old man and he becomes foolish.  He is a crazy Monarchist, and
would bring back the old ways unchanged.  Therefore he is closely
watched by us.  We do not permit any entry into his domain, or any
exit except by our leave."

Jaikie cast his eye over the wide expanse of forest and pasture.

"But how can you watch so big a place when you have so many other
things to do?  It must be eight or nine miles round."

"It is part of our training," said Ivar simply.  "The main
entrances are of course picketed.  For the rest, we have our
patrols, and they are very clever.  We Evallonians have sharp eyes
and a good sense for country, and we have been most of us in our
time what you call Boy Scouts, and many of us are hill-bred or
forest-bred.  We have our wood-craft and our field-craft.  Believe
me, Prince Odalchini is as securely guarded as if battalions of
foot lined his park fence.  Not a squirrel can enter without our
knowing it."

"I see," said Jaikie, feeling a little depressed.  His eye crossed
the Rave and ran along a line of hills ten miles or so to the west.
They were only foot-hills, two thousand feet high at the most, but
beyond he had a glimpse of remote mountains.  He saw to his left
the horseshoe in which Tarta and its Schloss lay--he could not see
the pass that led to Kremisch, since it was hidden by a projecting
spur.  To the north the hills seemed to dwindle away into a blue
plain.  Just in front of him there was a deeply-recessed glen, the
containing walls of which were wooded to the summit, but at the top
the ridge was bare, and there was a cleft shaped like the backsight
of a rifle.  In that cleft the sun was most spectacularly setting.

Ivar followed his gaze.  "That is what we call the Wolf's Throat.
It is the nearest road to the frontier.  There in that cleft is the
western gate of Evallonia."

As Jaikie looked at the nick, sharp cut against the crimson sky, he
had a sudden odd sensation.  Beyond that cleft lay his old life.
Down here in this great shadowy cup of Evallonia was a fantastic
world full of incalculable chances.  These chances pleasurably
excited him, but there were dregs of discomfort in his mind; he
felt that he had been enticed here and that something in the
nature of a trap might close on him.  Now Jaikie had a kind of
claustrophobia, and anything like a trap made him feel acutely
unhappy, so it comforted him to see the outlet.  That blazing
rifle-backsight among the hills was the road to freedom.  Some day
soon he might have to use it, and it was good to know that it was
there.

That night he observed after supper that he must be getting on with
his job, and Ashie agreed.  "I was just going to say the same thing
myself," he said.  "The air is full of rumours, and we can't get a
line on what the Monarchists mean to do.  There must be some hitch
in their plans.  We hear from Melina that there's not a Minister
left in the place, only clerks carrying on, and that the National
Guard are standing-to, waiting orders.  We shall probably come on a
Minister or two very soon trying to cross the frontier, but our
orders are to speed their journey.  We don't want a pogrom.  What
worries me is Cousin Mintha.  She is in the south, among the oil-
fields, and it looks as if she were on the warpath and moving
towards Melina.  We are nothing like ready for that, and she may
put everything in the soup.  The Monarchists must be allowed to
show their hand first, but in this darned fog nobody knows
anything.  So the sooner you get inside the House of the Four
Winds, my lad, the better for everybody."

"Can't you release me on parole?" Jaikie asked.

"Impossible.  If you were caught in this neighbourhood and I had
let you out on parole, I should be suspected of double-dealing, and
I can't afford that with Mintha on her high horse.  No, you must
escape and go off on the loose, so that if you are caught I can
deal with you firmly.  I may have to put you in irons," he added
with a grin.

"It won't be easy to get into that castle," said Jaikie.  "I've had
a word with the young Ivar and they seem to have taped every yard."

"Well, that's just where your genius comes in, my dear.  I put my
Evallonians high, but I'm prepared to back you as a strategist
against them every time.  Look at the way you ran round the Green
backs this afternoon."

"Then there's the getting in here again."

"That will be all right if you don't take too long.  I can have
your tent shut up all day and give out that you've a touch of
malaria and mustn't be disturbed. . . .  We can make sure that you
leave camp unnoticed, for I'll tell you the dispositions.  Then
it's up to you to get inside the Schloss and out again and be back
here early in the night.  I can tell you the best place to enter
our lines."

"All right," said Jaikie a little dolefully.  "My only job is to
dodge your lads and have a heart-to-heart talk with the Prince.
What about him, by the way?  Mayn't he have a posse of keepers
taking pot-shots at any intruder?"

"No, that's not his way.  You have only us to fear.  Be thankful
that you can reduce your enemies to one lot.  Ours seem to produce
a fresh crop daily.  I've just heard that one of Mastrovin's gang
has been seen pretty near here.  If Mastrovin turns up there's
likely to be dirty work."



Jaikie went out literally with the milk.  Every morning the
neighbouring farms sent up milk for the camp in great tin drums
borne in little pony-carts, and with them a batch of farm boys.
Discipline was relaxed on these occasions, and Ashie had indicated
one route which the milk convoy invariably followed.  Jaikie, in
much-stained flannel bags and a rough tweed jacket and ancient
shoes, might easily pass as an Evallonian rustic.  So he trotted
out of camp behind a milk-cart, his hands assisting an empty drum
to keep its balance.  A hundred yards on and he slipped
inconspicuously into the roadside scrub.

The weather was cooler than it had been of late, and there was a
light fresh wind blowing from the hills.  Jaikie felt rejuvenated,
and began to look forward to his day's task with a mild comfort.
He did not believe that any patrols of Juventus could prevent him
from getting inside the park.  After that the job would be harder.
He remembered the gentle fanaticism in Prince Odalchini's eyes, and
considered that it might be difficult to get him to agree to any
counsels of moderation, or even to listen to them.  He might regard
Jaikie as one who had deliberately gone over to the other side.
But Randal Glynde, if he were there, would help--Jaikie hoped he
would be there.  And there was just a chance that Alison might have
turned up.  It was this last thought that strung up his whole being
to a delicious expectation.

As he expected, it was not very difficult to get inside the park.
His prospect from the ridge the night before had given him his
bearings.  He realised that his former entrance with Luigi had been
on the east side, not far from the road between Zutpha and Tarta;
now he was on the north side, where there was no road following the
boundary, and thick coverts of chestnut undergrowth extended right
up to the paling.  He did not find it hard to locate the Juventus
cordon.  The patrols made their rounds noiselessly and well, but he
discovered from their low whistles the timing of their beats, and
when it would be safe to make a dash.  But it took an unconscionable
time, and it was midday before his chance came, for he was
determined to take no needless risks.  There was a point where the
high paling was broken by the mossy and ruinous posts of an old
gateway.  That was the place he had selected, and at exactly
seventeen minutes past twelve he slipped over like a weasel and
dropped into the fern of the park.

He travelled a few hundred yards, and then halted to lunch off some
biscuits and chocolate provided by Ashie.  Then with greater
freedom he resumed his journey.  Beneath him the ground fell away
to a small stream, a tributary of the Rave, which had been
canalised in a broad stone channel.  There was no bridge, but for
the convenience of the estate-labourers a plank had been laid
across it.  Beyond was a glade of turf, at the end of which he
could see the beginning of a formal garden.  This was very plain
sailing, and he became careless, forgetting that Juventus might
have their patrols inside the park as well as without. . . .
Suddenly, when he was within a few yards of the culvert, swinging
along and humming to himself, he found his feet fly from beneath
him.  He had been tripped up neatly by a long pole, and the owner
sat himself heavily on his chest.

Convinced after the first movement that he was hopelessly
outmatched in physical strength, Jaikie did not struggle.  Vain
resistance he had always regarded as folly.  His assailant behaved
oddly.  He ejaculated something as the result of a closer
inspection, and then removed himself from his prisoner's chest.
But he did not relax a tight grip on his arm.  Jaikie observed with
some surprise that he was in the hands of Ivar.

Ivar's surprise was greater.  His arms imprisoned Jaikie's to his
sides, and to a spectator the couple must have had a lover-like
air.

"Mr Galt!" he gasped.  "What the devil are you doing here?"

"You may well ask," said Jaikie pleasantly.  "The fact is, I've
broken bounds.  I wanted to have a look at that Schloss.  D'you
mind not gripping my shoulder so hard?  You've got me safe enough."

"You have escaped?" said Ivar solemnly.  "You have not been
permitted to come here on parole?"

"No.  Count Paul did not give me permission--he knows nothing about
it--this is my own show.  But look here, Ivar, you're a sensible
chap and must listen to reason.  I'm on your side, and I'm trying
to help your cause in my own way.  I have special reasons for being
here which I can't explain to you now.  I mean to be back in camp
this evening--I'll pledge you my word of honour for that.  So if
you're wise you'll let me go and never say a word about having seen
me."

Ivar's face showed the confusion of his feelings.

"You know all about me," Jaikie went on.  "You know I'm a friend of
the Praefectus.  Well, I'm trying to help him, without his
knowledge--that's why I'm here.  You won't interfere with me if
you've the interests of Juventus at heart."

The boy's face had changed from bewilderment to sternness.

"I cannot let you go.  You are my prisoner and you must return with
me.  It is not for me to use my discretion.  I must obey my orders,
and the orders are clear."

There was that in his eye which warned Jaikie that argument was
futile.  The discipline of Juventus allowed no quibbling.  But
Jaikie continued to plead, judging meantime the distance from the
culvert and the plank.  Then he seemed to give it up as a bad job.
"All right," he said.  "So be it.  I daresay it's the only thing
you can do, but it's infernal hard luck on me.  The Praefectus will
think I have been trying to double-cross him, and I honestly wanted
to help him.  You believe that, don't you?"

Ivar, remembering his admiration of yesterday, relented so far as
to say that he did.  Jaikie's surrender, too, caused him to relax
the tightness of his grip, and in an instant Jaikie acted.  With an
eel-like twist he was out of his clutches and Ivar found himself
sprawling on the slope.  Before he had found his feet Jaikie had
skipped over the culvert and had kicked the plank into the water.
The two faced each other across a gully which was too broad to
jump, and to cross which meant the descent and ascent of slimy
stone walls.

"Let's talk sense," said Jaikie.  "You know you haven't an earthly
chance of catching me.  You've done your duty, in arresting me--
only I've escaped, which is your rotten luck.  Now listen.  I'm
going on to reconnoitre that house, never mind why.  But, as I told
you, I'm on your side, and on Count Paul's side, and I'm coming
back.  I'll have to wait till it's darkish--eight or nine o'clock
perhaps, I daresay.  Will your lads be on duty then?"

Something in Jaikie's tone impressed Ivar.  "I shall be on duty,"
he said.  "I return here for my second tour at eight o'clock."

"Well, I'll come back this way, and I'll surrender myself to you.
I don't want to outrage your discipline.  You can march me to the
camp, and hand me over to the Praefectus, and it will be my
business to make my peace with him.  Have you got that right?"

But Ivar's sense of duty was not to be beguiled.  He started to
climb down into the culvert.  "Ass!" said Jaikie as he turned and
trotted off in the direction of the castle.  He dived into one of
the side glades, and when he had reached the first terrace wall and
looked back he saw that his pursuer had halted not very far from
the culvert.  Perhaps, he thought, there was some order of Juventus
which confined their patrols to a certain distance inside the park
bounds.

Jaikie, as he threaded the terrace paths, and climbed stairways
between neglected creepers and decaying statuary, discovered that
he had come to the northern end of the Schloss, which was one of
the last-century additions, castellated, battlemented, topped with
bogus machicolations.  The great house had looked deserted on his
first visit, but now it had the air of a forsaken mausoleum.  He
turned the flank of it and moved along the weedy upper terrace,
looking for the door by which he and the Prince had entered after
luncheon.  He found it, but it was locked and apparently
barricaded.  He found other doors, but they were in the same
condition.  The House of the Four Winds seemed to have prepared
itself for a siege.

This was discouraging.  It occurred to him that the Prince might
have departed, but in that case Juventus would have known of it and
would not be maintaining its vigilant beleaguerment.  He retired to
the terrace wall, from which he could get a good view of the tiers
of windows.  All of them were blind and shuttered.  If there were
people in the castle they were dwelling in the dark.  This he knew
was the side where the chief living-rooms were, and if there were
inmates anywhere it would be here.

At last his quick eyes caught sight of something on the third
floor.  It was a window open a little at the top.  It was dark, but
that might be because of blinds and not of shutters--the sun was so
placed that it was hard to judge of that.  By that window, and by
that window only, he might effect an entrance.

It was an easy conclusion to reach, but the ways and means were not
easy.  Beneath each line of windows ran a narrow ledge along which
it might be just possible to make a traverse.  But the question was
how to reach that ledge, for there were no friendly creepers on the
great blank stone façade.  Jaikie, moving stealthily in the cover
of pots and statues, for he had an ugly feeling that he might be
under hostile observation, reconnoitred carefully the whole front.
Something told him that he was not alone in this business; he had
the sense that somewhere else on that terrace there were human
beings engaged perhaps in the same enterprise.  Could Juventus have
flung out their scouts thus far?  He scarcely believed it, judging
from Ivar's behaviour, but he had no time for nervousness, for the
day was getting on and he had still his main work to do.

The front yielded him nothing.  But at the flanking tower which he
had first approached he got a glimmer of hope.  There was a fire
escape which had been allowed to fall into disrepair, but which was
certainly still climbable.  The question was would it give access
to the ledge below the window?  He thought that it might, and
started to ascend.

Many of the rungs were rotten, and he had to move with extreme
caution; indeed, at one moment he feared that the whole contraption
would break loose from the wall.  Now his early training proved its
worth, for he was without a suspicion of vertigo, and could look
down unmoved from any height.  The fire-escape led up to the third
story, and he found that by stepping to his left he could stand on
the sill of a narrow window in the gap between the tower and the
main façade.  He got his hands on the ledge and to his relief found
it broader than he had hoped--at least a foot and a half of hard
stone.  The difficulty would be to draw himself up on to it.

He achieved this, not without some tremor of the heart, for a foot
and a half is not much of a landing-place.  Very cautiously he laid
himself along it, and then slowly raised himself to his feet.  By
turning his head he had a glimpse of a great swimming landscape
running out into blue distances--he did not look twice, for even
his cool head grew a little giddy at the sight.  With his face to
the wall of the castle he began to side-step along the ledge.

It proved far simpler than he had feared, for the stone was firm.
He passed window after window, all closed and shuttered, till his
heart began to sink.  Had he blundered after all?  Surely the
window he had marked had been the fifth from the right. . . .  And
then he came to one which, as he approached it, seemed suddenly to
move.  A hand was lifting the lower sash, and an old face looked
out into the sunlight.

Jaikie took a firm grip of the inner sill, for he felt that
anything might happen, and the terrace was a long way below.
"Prince Odalchini," he said, "I've come back."

The old face scarcely changed.  Its eyes peered and blinked a
little at the uncouth figure which seemed to be hanging in air.

"I'm Galt," said the figure.  "Do you mind me coming in?"

"Ah, yes--Mr Galt," said the voice.  "Certainly come in.  You are
very welcome.  I do not think anyone has attempted that ledge since
for a bet I did it as a boy.  But my effort was limited to the
traverse between two windows.  You have come all the way from the
North Tower!  Magnificent!  You will desire, I think, some
refreshment."



Dickson McCunn sat in a deep armchair sipping a mammoth cup of tea.
Prince Odalchini had offered every kind of refreshment, but it had
taken time to dig the old housekeeper and the older butler out of
the cavernous lower regions, and indeed Janet and Alison had had to
descend themselves and help to make tea.  All seven were now
sitting in the Prince's cabinet, and for the last quarter of an
hour the conversation had been chiefly an examination of Jaikie by
the Prince and Randal Glynde.  Dickson listened with only half an
ear, for Jaikie was confirming what they already knew.  He was more
intent on savouring the full strangeness of this experience.

Two days ago he had been an ordinary convalescent at a German
kurhaus, on the eve of returning to the homely delights of
Blaweary.  Now he found himself inside an old stone palace which
was in a state of siege, a palace which he had entered like a rat
through mysterious cellars.  His mind kept casting back to the
spring morning nine--or was it ten?--years ago, when, being freed
for ever from the routine of business, he had set out on a walking-
tour, and had found himself in another great house among desperate
folk.  He remembered his tremors and hesitations, and that final
resolve which he had never regretted, which indeed had been the
foundation of all his recent happiness.  Was he destined to face
another crisis?  Looking back, it seemed to him that everything had
been predestined.  He had left the shop and set out on his travels
because he was needed at Huntingtower.  Had Providence decreed that
Dr Christoph should give him back his health simply that he should
come here?

Dickson felt solemn.  He had that Calvinistic belief in the
guidance of Allah which is stronger than any Moslem's, and he had
also the perpetual expectation of the bigoted romantic. . . .  But
he was getting an old man, too old for cantrips.  His eye fell upon
Prince Odalchini, who was also old, though he seemed to have grown
considerably younger in the past half-hour.  He felt that he had
misjudged the Prince; his face was shrewder than he had thought,
and he seemed to be talking with authority.  Jaikie, too.  Dickson
was not following the talk, but Jaikie's gravity was impressive,
and the rest were listening to him eagerly.  He felt a sudden
uprush of pride in Jaikie.  He was a different being now from the
pallid urchin of Huntingtower, who had wept bitterly when he was
getting dangerous.

His eyes roamed round the walls, taking in a square of old
tapestry, and a line of dark kit-kat portraits.  The window showed
a patch of golden evening sky.  The light caught Alison's hair, and
he began to wonder about her and Jaikie.  Would they ever be man
and wife?  It would be a queer match between long descent and no
descent at all--but it was a queer world, and nothing could be
queerer than this place.  Janet and Archie belonged to a familiar
sphere, but Mr Glynde was like nothing so much as the Pied Piper of
Hamelin.  What was he, Dickson McCunn, doing among such outlandish
folk?  Dougal had said that they wanted his advice; but he felt as
impotent as Thomas the Rhymer no doubt felt when he was consulted
on the internal affairs of Fairyland. . . .  Still, common sense
was the same all the world over.  But what if common sense was not
wanted here, but some desperate quality of rashness, some insane
adventurousness?  He wished he were twenty years younger, for he
remembered Prince John.  He was sworn to do his best for the exiled
monarch, and that very morning with a break in his voice he had
renewed the pledge to the chauffeur McTavish.

By this time he was coming out of his dreams, and hearing something
of the conversation.  As he finished his tea Jaikie was putting the
heart of his problem in staccato sentences, and Prince Odalchini
and Mr Glynde with gloomy faces were nodding their assent.
Something in the words stirred a reminiscence. . . .

"I mind," said Dickson out of the depths of his chair.

It was the first time he had spoken, and the others turned to him,
so that he felt a little embarrassed.

"I mind," he said, "when Jimmy Turnbull was running for Lord
Provost of Glasgow.  He was well liked and far the best man for the
job, but the feck of the Town Council didn't fancy his backers, and
if it had come to the vote Jimmy would have been beat.  So Tam
Dickson--he was my own cousin and was Baillie then and afterwards
Lord Provost himself--Tam was the wily one and jerked his brains to
think of a way out.  What he did was this.  He got Jimmy's friends
to drop Jimmy and put up one David Duthie, who was a blethering
body that was never out of the papers.  He had a sore job
persuading them, he told me, but he managed it in the end.  The
consequence was that the very men that were opposed to Jimmy's
backers, now that he was quit of them, took up Jimmy, and since
they were a majority of the Council he was triumphantly elected."

Dickson's apologue was received with blank faces by the others,
with the exception of Randal Glynde.  Into that gentleman's eyes
came a sudden comprehending interest, and Dickson saw it and was
encouraged.  His own mind was awaking to a certain clearness.

"If Prince John didn't exist," he asked, "is there anybody else the
Monarchists could put up?"

"There is no one," said Prince Odalchini sadly.  "There is, of
course, his uncle, the late king's brother, the Archduke Hadrian,
but he is impossible."

"Tell us about the Archduke," said Dickson.

"He is an old man, and very frail.  He has not been in Evallonia
for many years, and even his name is scarcely remembered.  He is
believed to be one of the greatest living numismatologists, and he
has given his life to his hobby.  I alone of the Evallonian
nobility have kept in touch with him, and it was only yesterday
that I had a letter from his secretary.  His Royal Highness is a
bachelor, and for long has lived in a chateau in France near
Chantilly, scarcely going beyond his park walls.  He is as strict a
recluse as any mediæval hermit.  Now he is bedridden, and I fear
cannot have many months to live."

Prince Odalchini rose, opened a cabinet, and took out a photograph.

"That is His Royal Highness, taken two years ago at my request, for
I desired to have a memento of him.  In my youth he was kind to
me."

He handed it to Dickson, who studied it carefully.  It showed a man
not unlike Mr Pickwick or the great Cavour, with a round face,
large innocent eyes, and grey hair thinning on the temples--a man
of perhaps seventy years, but, so far as could be judged from the
photograph, still chubby and fresh-complexioned.  It was passed
round the company.  Janet and Archie scarcely glanced at it, but Mr
Glynde looked at it and then looked at Dickson, and his brow
furrowed.  Jaikie did the same, and when it came to Alison she
cried out--"Why, Dickson, it might be you, if your hair was
greyer."

"I was just thinking that," was the answer.  Dickson retrieved the
photograph and studied it again.

"What size of a man is he?" he asked.  His clearness of mind was
becoming acid.

"Shortish, about your own height," said the Prince.

"Umphm!  Now what hinders you to do the same with the Archduke as
my cousin Tam Dickson did with David Duthie?  Jaikie says that
Juventus would be for Prince John but for you and your friends.
Well, if you run the Archduke, they'll take up Prince John, and
since you tell me they'll have the upper hand of you, they'll put
Prince John on the throne.  D'you see what I mean?  It's surely
common sense."

This speech had a considerable effect on the others.  Archie
laughed idiotically, and Mr Glynde found it impossible to remain
seated.  But Prince Odalchini only shook his head.

"Ingenious," he said, "but impossible.  His Royal Highness is old
and frail and bedridden.  He would not consent, and even if he
consented, he would be dead before he reached Evallonia."

Dickson's mind was moving by leaps to a supreme boldness.

"What for should he come near Evallonia?  He need never leave his
chateau, and indeed the closer he lies there the better.  It's not
his person, but his name that you want. . . .  See here, Prince.
You say that nobody in Evallonia knows him, and few have ever seen
him, but that there's a general notion of what he looks like.  Can
you persuade your friends to change their minds about Prince John
and declare for the Archduke as the older and wiser man and more
suited for this crisis?  If you do that, and put him or something
like him on the throne, Juventus will come along in a week and
fling him out and set up Prince John, and then you'll all be happy
together."

The company was staring at him open-mouthed and wide-eyed, all
except Prince Odalchini, who seemed inclined to be cross.

"But I tell you we cannot get His Royal Highness," he said.

"I said 'or something like him,'" was Dickson's answer.  His mind
was now as limpid as an April morning.

"What on earth do you mean?"

"I mean somebody you can pass off as the Archduke."

"And where shall we find him?"  The Prince's tone was ironical.

"What about myself?" said Dickson.

For an instant there was utter silence.

Prince Odalchini's face showed a range of strong emotions, anger,
perplexity, incredulity and then something that was almost hope.
When he spoke, his words were inadequate to his feelings.  "Are you
mad?" he asked.

"'Deed I'm not.  I came here as a business man to give you my
advice, and there it is.  It's a perfectly simple proposition, and
there's just the one answer.  By the mercy of God I'm reasonably
like the old man, though I'm a good deal younger, and anyway there
is nobody to tell the differ.  I'm willing to take the chance,
though I suppose it will be high treason if I'm grippit, for I'm
not going back on my word to Prince John.  I'll see yon lad with
his hinder parts on the throne before I leave Evallonia, or my
name's not Dickson McCunn."

"You realise that you would be running tremendous risks?"

"Ugh, ay, but I've taken risks before this.  The only thing I
stipulate is that I'm not left too long on the throne, for I
wouldn't be up to the job.  I might manage a week before I went
skelping across the frontier--but not more."

Prince Odalchini's expression had changed.  There was now respect
in it, and excitement, and a twitching humour.

"I think you are the boldest man I have ever met," he said.

"Never heed that," said Dickson.  "My knees will likely be knocking
together before I've done.  What I want to know is, can you
persuade the rest of your lot, Muresco particularly, to agree to
this plan?"

The Prince considered.  "It may be difficult, but I think it can be
done.  After all, it is the only way."

"And can you upset the Republic and set up the Archduke?"

"Beyond doubt.  For a little while--that is to say."

"Last and most important, can Juventus be persuaded to accept
Prince John?"

It was Jaikie who answered.

"I believe they could.  Count Paul would jump at him, and so would
the rank-and-file.  I don't know about the other leaders.  There's
a woman who matters a good deal."

"Prince John must marry her then.  That's all.  We're desperate
folk and we're not going to stick at trifles."  Dickson was in that
mood of excited authority which always with him followed the taking
of a great resolution.  "But, Jaikie, it's terrible important that,
if I get that far, Juventus must force me to abdicate in a week--I
couldn't manage longer.  It would be an awful business if at my
time of life I was kept cocked up on a throne I didn't want.
There's just the one job for you, and that's to manage Juventus,
and, mind, I've trusted you often and never known you fail.  Away
with you back to your camp, for there's no time to lose."

"We dine in half an hour," said Prince Odalchini.

"Well, let's get pencil and paper and work out the details."

But they did not immediately get to business, for Alison rose and
ceremoniously embraced Mr McCunn.  Her kiss was like that of
Saskia's years before in the house of Huntingtower; it loosed a
force of unknown velocity upon the world.



The twilight had fallen when Jaikie emerged from one of the terrace
doors, which was promptly locked behind him.  He proposed to return
the way he had come and surrender himself to Ivar.  After that he
and Ashie must hold high converse.  He had a task before him of
immense difficulty and his head was already humming with plans.
But Dickson's certainty had given him hope, and he thanked his
stars that he had not gone home, for now he was in the kind of
adventure he had dreamed of, and his comrades were the people he
loved best in the world.  This was his notion of happiness.

He must hurry, if he was not to miss Ivar, so he short-circuited
his route, by dropping from the successive terrace walls instead of
going round by the stairways. . . .  At the last of them he found
that he had dropped into a human embrace which was strict and
powerful, but not friendly.

His instinct of the afternoon had been right.  Others besides
himself had been lurking among the paths and statues of the
terraces.



VIII

SPLENDIDE MENDAX


Jaikie's captors, whoever they were, meant business.  Before the
sack was slipped over his head a cloth, sticky and sweet-smelling,
was twisted round his mouth.  He was vaguely aware of struggling
against an immense suffocating eiderdown, and that was his last
conscious moment for perhaps ten minutes.  These minutes should
have been hours if the intentions of his ill-wishers had been
fulfilled.  But in Jaikie they had struck a being oddly constituted.
Just as it was nearly impossible to make him drunk, so he was
notably insensitive to other forms of dope.  Had he ever had to
face a major operation, the anæsthetist would have had a difficult
time with him.  Moreover, his nose had come into contact with
something hard and was bleeding copiously, which may have
counteracted the stuff on the bandage.  The consequence was that he
presently regained his senses, and found himself in a position of
intense bodily discomfort.  He was being borne swiftly along by
persons who treated him with no more respect than as if he were a
bundle of faggots.

He was a good deal frightened, but his anger was greater than his
fright, and it was directed against himself.  For the third time
within a week he had stumbled blindly into captivity--first Ashie,
then Ivar that very day, and now some enemy unknown.  What had
become of the caution on which he had prided himself?  He had been
an easy victim, because he had had no thought for anything but the
immediate future, and had not recognised that he had been walking
among hidden fires.  He reproached himself bitterly.  Ashie had
trusted him, Prince Odalchini had trusted him, and he had proved
himself only a blundering child.  What especially rankled was that
he must break his pledge to Ivar.  That dutiful youth would be
looking for him near the boundary of the park, and would set him
down as a common liar.

Indignation, especially against one's self, is a wonderful antidote
to fear.  It also tends to sharpen the wits.  Jaikie, with a horrid
crick in his neck and a back aching from rough treatment, began to
think hard and fast.  Who was responsible for this outrage?
Certainly not Prince Odalchini or anyone connected with the House
of the Four Winds.  Not Juventus.  Ivar was the only Greenshirt
who knew of his visit to the castle, and Ivar was too much of a
gentleman to resort to these brigand tricks.  So far his
conclusions were clear, but they were only negative.  Who would
want to capture him?  Somebody who knew about his new job?--But the
only people in the secret were his friends in the castle.  Somebody
who had a grudge against Prince Odalchini?--But that could only be
Juventus, and he had ruled Juventus out.  Somebody who had a
grievance against himself?--But he was a humble stranger unknown in
Evallonia.  Somebody who hated Juventus and the Prince alike and
who suspected him as a liaison between them?--Now, who filled that
bill?  Only the present Republican Government in Evallonia.  But
all his information was to the effect that that Government was
shaking in its shoes, and that its members were making their best
speed to the frontier.  They could have neither leisure nor
inclination to spy thus effectively on a castle at whose gates the
myrmidons of Juventus were sitting.

And then suddenly he remembered what Ashie had told him and Prince
Odalchini had repeated.  Behind the effete Republic was a stronger
and darker power. . . .  A horrid memory of Mastrovin came to his
mind, the face which had glowered on him in the room in the
Portaway Hydropathic, the face which he had seen distorted with
fury in the library of Castle Gay--the heavy shaven chin, the
lowering brows, the small penetrating eyes--the face which Red
Davie had described as that of a maker of revolutions. . . .  The
thought that he might be in Mastrovin's hands sent a shiver down
his aching spine.  The man had tried to kidnap Prince John and had
been foiled by Alison.  He must be desperate with all his plans in
confusion, a mad dog ready to tear whatever enemy he could get his
fangs into.

Jaikie's fears must have stopped well short of panic, for he had
enough power of reflection left to wonder where he was being taken.
He was no longer in the park or the garden, for the feet of his
bearers sounded as if they were on some kind of pavement.  He had
an impression, too, that he was not in the open air, but inside a
masoned building.  It could not be the castle, for he had heard
that evening from Alison of her entry through the cellars and the
difficulties of the route; if that approach was so meticulously
guarded, it was probable that the same precautions had been taken
with all. . . .  And then it occurred to him that, since the great
building abutted on the town of Tarta, there must be other ways
into the streets from the park, through outhouses and curtilages,
for once the burgh had been virtually part of the castle.  No doubt
these were now disused and blocked up, but some knowledge of them
might linger in queer places.

His guess was confirmed, for presently it was plain that his
bearers were in a low and narrow passage.  There seemed to be at
least three of them, and they went now in Indian file--crouching as
he could tell from their movements, and now and then pushing him
before them.  He felt his legs grating on rough stone.  Once his
foot caught in a crevice, and his ankle was nearly twisted when it
was dragged out of it.  The place was a sort of drain, and it
seemed to him miles long; the air was warm and foul, and he was
inert not from policy, but from necessity, for he could hardly
breathe inside the sack.  Once or twice his bearers seemed to be at
fault, for they stopped and consulted in muffled voices.  These
halts were the worst of all, for there loomed before Jaikie the
vision of the death of a sewer rat.

Then the passage manifestly widened, the air grew fresher, and
there came the sound of flowing water.  He remembered that he had
seen runnels of water in the Tarta streets, effluents from the
Rave, and he realised that he had been right--they were now
underneath the town.  After that he was only dimly conscious of his
whereabouts.  He believed that the party were ascending--not
stairs, but an inclined tunnel.  There came a point in which they
moved with extreme caution, as if people were near, people who must
not hear or see them.  There followed the grating of an opening
door, then another and another, and even through the folds of the
sack Jaikie recognised that they were in some kind of dwelling.
There was the feel in the air of contiguity to human uses. . . .

The end came when he was suddenly dumped on a wooden floor, and one
of the party struck a light.  The sack was taken from his head, and
he was laid on a truckle-bed where were some rough blankets and an
unbleached pillow.  He had already decided upon his course, so he
kept his eyes shut and breathed heavily as if he were still under
the opiate.  The three men left the room, taking the candle with
them, and locking the door behind them, so that all he saw was
their retreating backs and these told him nothing.  They looked big
fellows in nondescript clothes, indoor or outdoor servants.

Jaikie's first feeling was of intense relief.  Whatever happened to
him, at any rate he was not going to be stifled in a drain.  He lay
for a little breathing free air and gasping like a fish on the
shingle.  His second feeling was that all his bones were broken,
but that he was too tired to care.  There were various other
feelings, but they all blended into a profound fatigue.  In about
three minutes Jaikie was asleep.

He must have slept a round of the clock, and he awoke in a state of
comparative bodily ease, for Rugby football had inured him to rough
handling.  The room was a small one, evidently little used, for it
had no furniture but a bed; it looked like an attic in an
unprosperous inn.  Its one dormer window looked over a jumble of
roofs to a large blank wall.  But since it faced east, it caught
the morning sunlight, and the dawn of the wholesome day had its
effect on Jaikie's spirits.  The ugly little fluttering at his
heart had gone.  He had only himself to thank for his troubles, he
decided, and whatever was in store for him he must keep his head,
and not be the blind fool of the past week.  He had awakened with
one thought in his mind.  Prince John was the trump card.  It was
Prince John that Mastrovin was looking for--if indeed Mastrovin was
his captor--and it was for him, Jaikie, to be very wary at this
point.  Was there any way in which he could turn his present
predicament to the advantage of his mission?  He had a shadow of a
notion that there might be.

The door was unlocked and breakfast was brought him, not by one of
his bearers of the night before, but by an ancient woman with a not
unpleasing face.  She gave him "Grüss Gott" in a friendly voice.
Since she spoke German like all the Tarta people, and since the
breakfast of coffee and fresh rolls looked good, he was encouraged
to ask for some means of washing.  She nodded, and fetched a tin
basin of water, soap, a towel, a cracked mirror and a broken comb,
doubtless part of her own toilet equipment.  Jaikie washed the
blood from his face, scrubbed from his hands some of the grime of
last night's cellars, dusted his clothes, and tidied up his unruly
hair.  Then he made a hearty meal, lit a pipe and lay down on the
bed to think.

He was not left long to his reflections.  The door opened and two
men entered, who may or may not have been his captors.  They were
clearly not countrymen, for they had the pallor of indoor workers,
and the stoop which comes from bending many hours in the day.  They
had solemn flat faces with a touch of the Mongol in them, and one
of them very civilly restored to Jaikie a knife which had dropped
out of his pocket.  They beckoned to him to follow them, and when
he obeyed readily they forbore to take his arm, but one went before
and one behind him.  He was escorted down a narrow wooden
staircase, and along a passage to a room at the door of which they
knocked ceremonially.  Jaikie found himself thrust into a place
bright with the morning sun, where two men sat smoking at a table.

He recognised them both.  One was a tall man with a scraggy neck
and a red, pointed beard, a creature of whipcord muscles and large
lean bones, who seemed to be strung on wires, for his fingers kept
tapping the table, and his eyelids were always twitching.  Jaikie
remembered his name--it was Dedekind, who had been left with the
Jew Rosenbaum to keep guard in the Castle Gay library when the
others searched the house.  The second was beyond doubt Mastrovin,
a little older, a little balder, but formidable as ever.  It was
not the library scene that filled Jaikie's mind as he looked at
them, but that earlier episode, in the upper room of the Portaway
Hydropathic, when they had cross-examined an alcoholic little
journalist.  That scene stuck in his memory, for it had been for
him one of gross humiliation.  They had bullied him, and he had had
to submit to be bullied, and that he could not forget.  Hate was a
passion in which he rarely indulged, but he realised that he
cordially hated Mastrovin.

Could they recognise him?  Impossible, he thought, for there could
be no link between that cringing little rat and the part he now
meant to play.  He also was two years older, and in youth one
changes fast.  So he confronted the two men with a face of cold
wrath, but there was a tremor beneath his coolness, for Mastrovin's
horrid little eyes were very keen.

"Your name?" Mastrovin barked.  "You are English?"

"I should like to know first of all who you are and what you mean
by your insolence?"  Jaikie spoke in the precise accent of a
Cambridge don, very unlike the speech of the former reporter of the
Craw Press.

Mastrovin bent his heavy brows.  "You will be wise to be civil--and
obedient.  You are in our power.  You have been found at suspicious
work.  We are not men to be trifled with.  You will speak, or you
will be made to speak, and if you lie you will suffer for it.  A
second time, your name?"

For some obscure reason the man's tone made Jaikie feel more
cheerful.  This was common vulgar bullying, bluffing on a poor
hand.  He thought fast.  Who did they think he was?  He had noticed
that at the first sight of him the faces of both men had fallen.
Had he been arrested because they believed that he was Prince John?

"I am English," he said.  "An English traveller.  Is this the way
that Evallonia welcomes visitors?"

"You are English, no doubt, and therefore you are suspect.  It is
known that the English are closely allied with those who are
plotting against our Government."

"Oh, I see."  Jaikie shrugged his shoulders and grinned.  "You
think I'm taking a hand in your politics.  Well, I'm not.  I don't
know the first thing about them, and I care less.  But if you're
acting on behalf of the Government, then I daresay you're right to
question me.  I'll tell you everything about myself, for I've
nothing to conceal.  My name is John Galt.  I've been an
undergraduate at Cambridge and I have just finished with the
University.  I've been taking a holiday walking across Europe, and
I came into Evallonia exactly four days ago.  I'll give you every
detail about what I've been doing since."

While smoking his after-breakfast pipe, he had made up his mind on
his course.  He would tell the literal truth, which he hoped to
season with one final and enormous lie.

"You have proof of what you say?" Mastrovin asked.

Jaikie took from his breast pocket the whole of its contents, which
were not compromising.  There was a lean pocket-book with very
little money in it, his passport, the stump of a cheque book, and
one or two Cambridge bills.  Fortunately, Alison's letters from
Unnutz were in his rucksack.

"There's every paper I've got," he said and laid them on the table.

Mastrovin studied the bundle and passed it to Dedekind.

"Now you will recount all your doings since you came to Tarta.  Be
careful.  Your story can be checked."

Jaikie obliged with a minute recital.  He described his meeting
with his Cambridge friend, Count Paul Jovian.  He explained that he
knew Prince Odalchini slightly and had letters to him, and that he
had called on him at the castle and stayed to lunch.  He described
his ambush by Ashie, and his life in the Juventus camp.  On this
Mastrovin asked him many questions, to which he replied with a
great air of unintelligent honesty.  "They were always drilling and
having powwows," he said, "but I couldn't make out what they were
after.  All I did was to play football.  I'm rather good at that,
for I play for Scotland."

"Now we will have your doings of yesterday," said Mastrovin grimly.

Jaikie replied with expansive details.  "I was getting tired of the
camp.  You see, I was a sort of prisoner, though Heaven knows why.
I suppose it had something to do with your soda-water politics.
Anyway, I was fed up and wanted a change--besides, I had promised
to see Prince Odalchini again.  So I slipped out of the camp and
had a pretty difficult time getting into the castle grounds.  The
Juventus people were patrolling everywhere, and I had a bit of a
scrap with one of them.  Then I had a still more difficult time
getting inside the castle.  I had to climb in like a cat-burglar."
Jaikie enlarged with gusto on the sensational nature of that climb,
for he believed that Mastrovin's people had been somewhere on the
terrace and must have seen him.  It looked as if the guess was
correct, for Mastrovin seemed to accept his story.

"Within the castle you saw--whom?" he barked.  He had a most
unpleasant intimidating voice.

"I saw the Prince, and dined with him.  There were one or two other
people there, but I didn't catch their names.  One was an English
Member of Parliament, I think."

"So!"  Mastrovin nodded to Dedekind.  "And when you had dined you
left?  Where were you going?"

"I was going back to the camp.  I hadn't given my parole or
anything of the kind, but I felt that I was behaving badly to my
friend.  Though he had made me prisoner he treated me well, and I
am very fond of him.  I proposed to go back and tell him what I had
done."

"He knew of your visit to the castle?"

"Not he.  I took French leave.  But I didn't like to leave
Evallonia without having an explanation with him.  Besides, I doubt
if I could have managed it with his scouts everywhere.  When your
ruffians laid hands on me, I was going back the way I had come in
the morning."

Mastrovin talked for a little with Dedekind in a tongue unknown to
Jaikie.  Then he turned upon him again his hanging countenance.

"You may be speaking the truth.  You say you have no interest in
the affairs of Evallonia.  If that be so, you can have no objection
to doing the Government of the Republic a service.  It is
threatened by many enemies, with some of whom you have been
consorting.  You must have heard talk--much talk--in the camp of
your friend Jovian and in the castle of Prince Odalchini.  You will
tell me all that you heard.  It will be to your interest, Mr Galt,
to be frank, and it will be very much to your disadvantage to be
stubborn."

Jaikie put up a very creditable piece of acting.  He managed to
produce some sort of flush on his pale face, and he put all the
righteous indignation he could muster into his eyes.  It was not
all acting, for once again this man was threatening him, and he
felt that little shiver along the forehead which was a sign of the
coming of one of his cold furies.

"What the devil do you mean?  Do you think that I spy on my
friends?  I know that Juventus is opposed to your Government, and
being a stranger I take no sides.  There was much talk in the camp,
and I didn't understand what it was all about.  But if I had I
would see you and your Government in Tophet before I repeated it."

Dedekind looked ugly and whispered something to Mastrovin, which
was no doubt a suggestion that means might be found for making
Jaikie speak.  Mastrovin whispered back what may have been an
assurance that such means would come later.  Jaikie could not tell,
for he knew no Evallonian.  But he was a little nervous lest he
should have gone too far.  He did not want to put a premature end
to these interrogations.

Mastrovin's next words reassured him.  He actually forced his heavy
face into a show of friendliness.

"I respect your scruples," he said.  "We have no desire to outrage
your sense of honour.  Besides, there is not much that Juventus
does of which we are not fully informed.  They are our declared
enemies and against them we use the methods of war.  But your
friend Prince Odalchini is surely in a different case.  He has
lived peacefully under republican rule, though he has no doubt a
preference for a monarchy.  We bear him no ill-will, but we are
anxious that he should not compromise himself by an alliance with
Juventus.  It was for that reason that you were brought here, that
we might probe what relation there was between the two, for we were
aware that you had come from the Juventus camp.  You can have no
objection to telling us what is Prince Odalchini's frame of mind
and what things were spoken of in the castle."

Jaikie smiled pleasantly.  "That's another pair of shoes. . . .
The Prince is sick of politics.  He is angry with Juventus, and
asked me pretty much the same questions as you.  But he is an old
man and a tired one, and all he wants is to be left alone.  He
doesn't like these patrols sitting round his park and letting
nobody in that they don't approve of.  When I met him in England he
was a strong Monarchist, but I don't think there is much royalism
left in him now."

Mastrovin was interested.  "No?  And why?"

"Because he thinks the Monarchists so feeble.  He was very strong
on that point with the English Member of Parliament--what was his
name?  Sir Archibald Something-or-other."  Jaikie was now talking
like a man wholly at his ease.

"He thinks them feeble, does he?  What are his reasons?"

"Well, one of them is that they have mislaid their trump card--
their Prince John.  I must say that sounds fairly incompetent."

"So he said that?"  Mastrovin's interest had quickened.

"Yes.  But it wasn't only losing Prince John that he blamed them
for, but for their failure to discover who had got him.  It seems
that they believe he has been kidnapped by your people, or rather
by the left wing of your people.  Prince Odalchini mentioned a
name--something like Merovingian--it began with an M, anyway.  But
that appears to have been a completely false scent."

"Prince Odalchini thinks it a false scent?"  Mastrovin's voice was
suddenly quiet and gentle.

"Yes, because they now know where he is."  Jaikie had ceased to be
a witness in the box, and was talking easily as if to a club
acquaintance.  He launched his mendacious bomb-shell in the most
casual tone, as if it were only a matter of academic interest.
"It's Juventus that have Prince John.  Not the lot here, but the
division a hundred miles south that is holding the oil-fields.
There's a woman in command.  I remember her name, because it was so
fantastic--the Countess Araminta Troyos."

There was dead silence for a second or two.  Mastrovin's eyes were
on the table, and Dedekind's fingers ceased to beat their endless
tattoo.

"So you see," Jaikie concluded lightly, "Prince Odalchini is
naturally sick of the whole business.  I would like to see him out
of the country altogether, for Evallonia at present seems to me no
place for an old gentleman who only asks for a quiet life."

Mastrovin spoke at last.  If Jaikie's news was a shock to him he
did not show it.  He was smiling like a large, sleepy cat.

"What you tell us is very interesting," he said.  "But we have much
more to learn from you, Mr Galt."

"I can't tell you anything more."

"I think you can.  At any rate, we will endeavour to help your
memory."

Jaikie, who had been rather pleased with himself, found his heart
sink.  There was a horrid menace behind that purring voice.  Only
the little shiver across his forehead kept him cool.

"I demand to be released at once," he said.  "As an Englishman you
dare not interfere with me, since you have nothing against me."

"You propose?"

"To go back to the Juventus camp, and then to go home to England."

"The first cannot be permitted.  The second--well, the second
depends on many things.  Whether you will ever see England again
rests with yourself.  In the meantime you will remain in our
charge--and at our orders."

He rasped out the last words in a voice from which every trace of
urbanity had departed.  His face, too, was as Jaikie remembered it
in the Canonry, a mask of ruthlessness.

And then, like an echo of his stridency, came a grinding at the
door.  It was locked and someone without was aware of that fact and
disliked it.  There was a sound of a heavy body applied to it, and,
since the thing was flimsy, the lock gave and it flew open.
Jaikie's astonished eyes saw a young Greenshirt officer, and behind
him a quartet of hefty Juventus privates.

He learned afterwards the explanation of this opportune appearance.
A considerable addition had been made to Ashie's wing, and it was
proposed to billet the newcomers in the town.  Accordingly a
billeting party had been despatched to arrange for quarters, and it
had begun with the principal inns.  At this particular inn, which
stood in a retired alley, the landlord had not been forthcoming, so
the party had explored on their own account the capacities of the
building.  They had found their way obstructed by sundry odd-
looking persons, and, since Juventus did not stand on ceremony, had
summarily removed them from their path.  A locked door to people in
their mood seemed an insult, and they had not hesitated to break it
open.

With one eye Jaikie saw that Mastrovin and Dedekind had their
fingers on pistol triggers.  With the other he saw that the
Greenshirt had no inkling who the two were.  His first thought was
to denounce them, but it was at once discarded.  That would mean
shooting, and he considered it likely that he himself would stop a
bullet.  Besides, he had at the back of his head a notion that
Mastrovin might malgré lui prove useful.  By a fortunate chance he
knew the officer, who had been the hooker of the forwards against
whom he had played football, and to whom he had afterwards been
introduced.  He saw, too, that he was recognised.  So he gave the
Juventus salute and held out his hand.

"I'm very glad to see you," he said.  "I was just coming to look
for you.  I surrender myself to you.  It's your business to arrest
me and take me back to camp.  The fact is, I broke bounds yesterday
and went on the spree.  No, there was no parole.  I meant to return
last night, but I was detained.  I shall have to have it out with
the Praefectus.  I deserve to be put in irons, but I don't think
he'll be very angry, for I have a good many important things to
tell him."  Jaikie had managed to sidle towards the door, so that
he was close to the Greenshirts.

The officer was puzzled.  He recognised Jaikie as a friend of the
Praefectus and one for whose football capacities he had acquired a
profound respect.  Moreover, the frankness of his confession of
irregular conduct disarmed him.

"Why should I arrest you?" he stammered in his indifferent English.

"Because I am an escaped prisoner.  Discipline's discipline, you
know, though a breach of it now and then may be good business."

The young officer glanced at the morose figures at the table.
Happily he did not see the pistols which they fingered.  "Who are
these?" he asked.

"Two people staying in this inn.  Bagmen--of no consequence. . . .
By the way, I wonder what fool locked that door?"

The young man laughed.  "It is a queer place this, and I do not
like it.  Few of the rooms are furnished, and the landlord has
vanished, leaving only boorish servants.  But I have to find
billets for three companies before evening, and in these times one
cannot be fastidious."  He paused.  "You are not--how do you say
it?--pulling my foot?"

"Lord, no.  I'm deadly serious, and the sooner I see the Praefectus
the better."

"Then I will detail two men to escort you back to camp.  We will
leave this place, which is as bare as a rabbit-warren.  I
apologise, sirs, for my intrusion."  He bowed to the two men at the
table, and, to Jaikie's amusement, they stood up and solemnly bowed
in return.



Jaikie spent a somnolent afternoon in the tent of the Praefectus,
outside of which, at his own request, an armed sentry stood on
guard.

"Don't curse me, Ashie," he said when its owner returned.  "I know
I've broken all the rules, so you've got to pretend to treat me
rough.  Better say you're deporting me to headquarters for
punishment.  I want some solid hours of your undivided attention
this evening, for I've the deuce of a lot to tell you.  After
dinner will be all right.  Meantime, I want a large-scale map of
Evallonia--one with the Juventus positions marked on it would be
best.  Any word of the Countess Araminta?"

"Yes, confound her!  She has started to move.  Moving on Krovolin,
which is the Monarchists' headquarters.  Devil take her for an
abandoned hussy.  Any moment she may land us in bloody war."

"All the more reason why you and I should get busy," said Jaikie.

"You have blood on your forehead," Ashie told him that evening,
when at last the Praefectus was free from his duties.  "Have you
been in a scrap?"

"That comes of having a rotten mirror.  I thought I had washed it
all off.  No, I had no scrap, but I got my nose bled.  By
Mastrovin--or rather by one of his minions."

Ashie's eyes opened.  "You seem to have been seeing life.  Get on
with your story, Jaikie.  We're by ourselves, and if you tantalise
me any longer I'll put you in irons."

Jaikie told the last part first--a sober narrative of kidnapping,
an unpleasant journey, a night's lodging, a strictly truthful talk
with two dangerous men, and the opportune coming of the Greenshirt
patrol.  Ashie whistled.

"You were in a worse danger than you knew.  I almost wish it had
come to shooting, for there were enough Greenshirts in Tarta this
morning to pull that inn down stone by stone.  I should love to see
Mastrovin in his grave.  But I daresay he would have taken you with
him, and that would never do. . . .  Well, I've got the end of your
tale.  Now get back to the beginning.  How did you get into the
park?"

"Easily enough, but your people made it a slow business.  By the
way, I wish you would have up a lad called Ivar and explain to him
that I was unavoidably prevented from keeping my engagement with
him.  He's a pleasant chap, and I shouldn't like him to think me a
crook.  The park was easy, but the castle was a tougher
proposition.  I had to do rather a fine bit of roof-climbing, and
it was then that Mastrovin's fellows saw me, when I was spidering
about the battlements.  However, in the end I found an open window
and got inside and met a pleasant little party.  English all of
them, except Prince Odalchini."

"Good Lord, what were they doing there?"

"Justifying Mastrovin's suspicion that England is mixed up with the
Evallonian Monarchists.  I think they are going to be rather useful
people, for they are precisely of your own way of thinking.  So is
Prince Odalchini, and he believes he can persuade Count Casimir and
the rest of his crowd.  At any rate, he is going to have a dashed
good try."

"But I don't understand," said the puzzled Ashie.  "Persuade him
about what?"

"Listen very carefully and you'll hear, and prepare for shocks."
Jaikie proceeded to recount the conversation at the castle, and
when he mentioned the Archduke Hadrian, Ashie sat up.  "He's my
godfather," he said; "but I never saw him.  No one has.  I thought
he was dead."

"Well, he isn't.  He's alive but bedridden, and it's only his name
we want.  Ashie, my dear, within a week the Monarchists are going
to put the Archduke Hadrian on the throne.  Only it won't be the
Archduke, but another, so to speak, of the same name.  One of the
visitors at the castle is sufficiently like him to pass for him--
except with his intimates, of whom there aren't any here.  Then in
another week Juventus butts in in all the majesty of its youth,
ejects the dotard, and sets up Prince John, and everybody lives
happy ever after."

Ashie's reactions to this startling disclosure were many.
Bewilderment, doubt, incredulity, even a scandalised annoyance
chased each other across his ingenuous face.  But the final
residuum was relief.

"Jaikie," he asked hoarsely, "was that notion yours?"

"No.  My line is tactics, not grand strategy.  The notion came from
the man who is going to play the part of the Archduke.  He's an old
Scotsman, and his name is McCunn, and he's the best friend I ever
had in my life.  Ashie, I want to ask a special favour of you.  Mr
McCunn is playing a bold game, and I'll back him to see it through.
I don't know how much you'll come into it yourself, but if you do I
want you to do your best for him.  There may be a rough-house or
two before he escapes over the frontier, and if you have a chance,
do him a good turn.  Promise."

"I promise," said Ashie solemnly.  "But for heaven's sake tell me
more."

"YOU tell me something.  Would the rank-and-file of Juventus stand
for Prince John?"

"They would.  Ninety-nine per cent. of them."  But his face was
doubtful, so that Jaikie asked where the snag was.

"It's Cousin Mintha.  I don't know how she'll take it."

"That's my job.  I'm off to-morrow at break of day.  You'll have to
let me go, and find me a motor-bicycle."

"You're going to Mintha?"

"I must.  Every man to his job, and that's the one I've been
allotted.  I can't say I fancy it.  I'd sooner have had any other,
but there it is, and I must make the best of it.  You must give me
all the tips you can think of."

"You'd better get hold of Doctor Jagon first.  He is Mintha's chief
counsellor."

"Good.  I know him--met him in Scotland.  A loquacious old dog, but
honest."

"How are you going to get Prince John out of the Monarchist crowd
into Mintha's arms?"

"He isn't with the Monarchists.  He's lost."

"Lost!  That spikes our guns."

"Officially lost.  He disappeared a few days ago from the place in
the Tirol where Count Casimir had him hidden.  The Count thought
that Mastrovin had pinched him, and Mastrovin--well, I don't know
what Mastrovin thought, but he's raking heaven and earth to find
him.  Nobody knows where he is except the little party that dined
last night in the castle.  That's why Casimir will be friendly to
the idea of the Archduke, for he has mislaid his Prince."

"Where is he?" Ashie demanded.

"I had better not tell you.  It would be wiser for you not to know--
at present.  But I promise you I can lay my finger on him whenever
we want him.  What you've got to do is to put it about that he's
with Juventus.  That will prepare people's minds and maybe force
your cousin's hand.  I did a useful bit of work this morning, for I
told Mastrovin that Prince John was with the Countess Araminta.
That means, I hope, that he will go there after him and annoy your
cousin into becoming a partisan."

Ashie looked at his friend with admiration slightly tempered by
awe.

"Mintha is a little devil," he said slowly; "but she's a turtle-
dove compared to you."



IX

NIGHT IN THE WOODS


The great forest of St Sylvester lies like a fur over the patch of
country through which the little river Silf--the Amnis Silvestris
of the Romans--winds to the Rave.  At the eastern end, near the
Silf's junction with the main river, stands the considerable town
of Krovolin; south of it stretch downs studded with the ugly
headgear of oil wells; and west is the containing wall of the
mountains.  It is pierced by one grand highway, and seamed with
lesser roads, many of them only grassy alleys among the beeches.

At one of the cross-roads, where the highway was cut at right
angles by a track running from north to south, two cars were
halted.  The Evallonian summer is justly famed for its settled
weather, but sometimes in early August there falls for twenty-four
hours a deluge of rain, if the wind should capriciously shift to
the west.  The forest was now being favoured with such a downpour.
All day it had rained in torrents, and now, at eleven o'clock at
night, the tempest was slowly abating.  It was dark as pitch, but
if the eyes had no work for them, the ears had a sufficiency, for
the water beat like a drum in the tops of the high trees, and the
drip on the sodden ground was like the persistent clamour of a
brook.

One of the cars had comprehensively broken down, and no exploration
of its intestines revealed either the reason or the cure.  It was
an indifferent German car, hired some days before in the town of
Rosensee; the driver was Peter Wappit, and the occupants were
Prince Odalchini and Dickson McCunn.  The party from the other car,
which was of a good English make, had descended and joined the
group beside the derelict.  Three men and two women stood
disconsolately in the rain, in the glow of the two sets of
headlights.

Prince Odalchini had not been idle after the momentous evening
session in the House of the Four Winds.  He had his own means of
sending messages in spite of the vigilance of the Juventus patrols,
and word had gone forthwith to the Monarchist leaders and to the
secretaries of the Archduke Hadrian far away in the French chateau.
It had been a more delicate business getting the castle party out
of the castle confines.  The road used was that which led through
the cellars of the Turk's Head, and the landlord Proser, who had
now to be made a confidant, had proved a tower of strength.  So had
Randal Glynde, whose comings and goings seemed to be as free and as
capricious as the wind.  The cars--and Peter Wappit--had been duly
fetched from the Cirque Doré or wherever else they had been
bestowed, and early that morning, before Tarta was astir, two
batches of prosperous-looking tourists had left the inn, after the
hearty farewells which betoken generous tipping.  Their goal was
the town of Krovolin, but the route they took was not direct.
Under Prince Odalchini's guidance--no one would have recognised the
Prince, for Mr Glynde had made him up to look like an elderly
American with a goatee--they made a wide circuit among the
foothills, and entered the Krovolin highway by a route from the
south-west.

The weather favoured them, for the Tarta streets were empty when
they started, and they met scarcely a traveller on the roads.
There was one exception, for about four miles from the town their
journey was impeded by part of a travelling circus, which seemed to
be bearing south.  Its string of horses and lurching caravans took
a long time to pass in the narrow road, and during the delay the
proprietor of the circus appeared to offer his apologies.  This
proprietor, a tall, fantastically dressed being with a ragged
beard, conversed with various members of the party while the block
ahead was being cleared, and much of his conversation was in low
tones and in a tongue which was neither German nor Evallonian.

The five figures in the rain had a hurried conference.  The oldest
of them seemed to be the most perturbed by the contretemps.  He
peered at a map by the light of the lamps, and consulted his watch.

"Krovolin is less than thirty kilometres distant," he said.  "We
could tow this infernal car if we had such a thing as a rope, which
we haven't.  We can wait here for daylight.  Or one car can go on
to Krovolin and send out help."

"I'm for the last," said Sir Archie.  "I would suggest our all
stowing into my car, but it would mean leaving our kit behind, and
in these times I don't think that would be safe.  I tell you what.
You and Mr McCunn get into my car and Peter will drive you.  Janet
and Alison and I will wait behind with the crock, and you can send
help for us as soon as you can wake up a garage."

Prince Odalchini nodded.  "I think that will be best," he said.  "I
can promise that you will not have long to wait, for at Casimir's
headquarters there is ample transport.  I confess I do not want to
be delayed, for I have much to do.  Also it is not wise for me to
be loitering in St Sylvester's woods, since at present in this
country I am somewhat contraband goods.  Mr McCunn too.  It is
vital that no mishap should befall him.  You others are still free
people."

"Right," said Archie, and began moving the kit of his party from
his own car to the derelict.  "You'd both be the better of a hot
bath and a dressing-gown, for you've been pretty well soaked all
day.  We'll begin to expect the relief expedition in about an hour.
If I can get this bus started, where do I make for in Krovolin?"

"The castle of Count Casimir," was the answer.  "It is a huge
place, standing over Krovolin as the House of the Four Winds stands
over Tarta."

When the tail-lights of his own car had disappeared, Archie set
himself to make another examination of Dickson's, but without
success.  It was a touring car with a hood of an old-fashioned
pattern, which during the day had proved but a weak defence against
the weather.  The seats were damp and the floor was a shallow pool.
Since the rain was lessening, Archie managed to dry the seats and
invited the women to make themselves comfortable.  Janet Roylance
and Alison had both been asleep for the past hour, and had wakened
refreshed and prepared to make the best of things.  Janet produced
chocolate and biscuits and a thermos of coffee, and offered supper,
upon which Alison fell ravenously.  Archie curled his legs up on
the driver's seat and lit his pipe.

"I'm confoundedly sleepy," he said.  "A long day in the rain always
makes me sleepy.  I wonder why?"  A gout of wet from the canvas of
the hood splashed on his face.  "This is a comfortless job.  Looks
as if the fowls of the air were one up on us to-night.  I'll get a
crick in my neck if I stick here longer, and I'd get out and roost
on the ground if it weren't so sloppy.  'A good soft pillow for my
good grey head'--how does the thing go?"

"'Were better than this churlish turf of France.'"  Alison
completed the quotation.  "Have some coffee.  It will keep you
awake."

"It won't.  That's my paradoxical constitution.  Coffee makes me
sleepier."  He looked at his watch.  "Moon's due in less than an
hour.  I call this a rotten place--not the sound of a bird or
beast, only that filthy drip.  I say, you know, you two look like a
brace of owls in a cage."

It was not an inept comparison for the women in their white
waterproofs, which caught dimly the back-glow of the side-lamps.
The place was sufficiently eery, for the trees were felt rather
than seen, and the only food for the eye was the glow made by the
head-lights on the shining black tarmac of the highway.  The car
had been pushed on to the turf with its nose close to the main
road, opposite where the track from the north debouched.  Archie to
cheer himself began a song, against which his wife stoutly
protested.

"That's sacrilege," she said.  "This is a wonderful place, for
there must be fifteen miles of trees round us in every direction.
Be quiet, Archie, and, if you can't dose and won't have any supper,
think good thoughts."

"The only good thought I have is the kind of food Count Casimir
will give us.  Is he the sort of fellow that does himself well,
Alison?  You're the only one of us that knows him.  I want
beefsteaks--several of 'em."

"I think so," the girl answered.  "He praised our food at Castle
Gay and he gave me a very good breakfast at Knockraw.  But the
breakfast might have been Prince John's affair, for he was a hungry
young man. . . .  I wonder where HE is now.  I don't think he was
with Ran's outfit when we passed it this morning."

"We have properly dissipated our forces," said Archie.  "However,
that's a good rule of strategy if you know how to concentrate them
later.  I wonder where Jaikie is?"

"Poor Jaikie!"  Alison sighed.  "He has an awful job before him,
for he is as shy as an antelope really, though he does brazen
things.  He'll be scared into fits by the Countess Araminta.
Dickson was the one to deal with her."

"He may fall in love with her," said Archie.  "Quite possible,
though she's not the sort I fancy myself.  Very beautiful, you
know.  When I first saw her I thought her wonderful sunburn came
out of a bottle, and I considered her too much of a movie star, but
when I found it was the gift of Heaven I rather took to her.  But
Jaikie will have to stand up to her or she'll eat him.  I say,
Janet, how much use do you think Prince Odalchini is?"

"Good enough for a day with the bitch pack on the hills," was the
drowsy answer.  "Not much good for the Vale and the big fences."

"Just my own notion.  He's too old, and though he's a brave old
boy, I don't see him exactly leading forlorn hopes.  What about
Count Casimir, Alison?"

The girl shook her head.  "I'm not sure.  He talks too much."

"Too romantic, eh?"

"Too sentimental.  Dickson's romantic, which is quite a different
thing."

"I see.  Well, I take it there's no question about the Countess.
By all accounts she's a high-powered desperado.  Apart from her it
looks as if this show was a bit short of what Bobby Despenser calls
'dynamic personages,' and that what there are are mostly our own
push.  There's McCunn--no mistake about him.  And Jaikie--not much
mistake about Jaikie.  And there's your lunatic cousin Glynde.  To
think that when I saw him at Charles Lamancha's party two months
ago, I thought him rather a nasty piece of work--too much the
tailor's model and the pride of the Lido.  Who'd have guessed that
he was a cross between a bandit and a bard?"

Conversation had dispelled Archie's languor.

"This promises to be a merry party," he said.  "The trouble is to
know how and when it will stop and what kind of heads we'll have in
the morning.  Do you realise the desperate way we're behaving?
We're taking a hand in another fellow's revolution, and some of us
have taken charge of it.  And, more by token, who are we?  A retired
Glasgow grocer that wants to keep a crazy promise--and a Rugger
tough from Cambridge--and a girl I've purloined from her parents--
and a respectable married woman--and myself, an ornament of the
Mother of Parliaments, who should be sitting at Geneva before a wad
of stationery making revolutions for ever impossible. . . .  Hullo,
what's this?"

There was a noise like that of a machine-gun which rapidly grew
louder, and down the side road from the north came the lights of a
motor-bicycle.  Its rider saw the lamps of the car, slowed down,
skidded on the tarmac, and came to a standstill in a clump of fern.
A soaked and muddy figure stood blinking in the car lights.  So
dirty was his face that two of the three did not recognise him.
But Alison in a trice was out of the car with a cry of "Jaikie."

Mr John Galt had had a laborious day.  Ashie had prepared for him a
pass, giving him safe conduct to the camp of the Countess Araminta,
but had warned him that, except for Juventus, it was of no use, and
that Juventus had few representatives in the piece of country
through which he must travel.  He had also provided a map, and the
two had planned an ingenious course, which would take him to the
oil-fields by unfrequented by-ways.  It had proved too ingenious,
for Jaikie had lost his way, and gone too far west into the
foothills.  The blanket of low clouds and the incessant rain made
it impossible for him to get a prospect, and the countryside seemed
empty of people.  The only cottages he passed were those of
woodcutters whose speech he could not understand, and when he
mentioned place-names he must have mispronounced them, for they
only shook their heads.  His only clue was the Silf, of which he
struck the upper waters after midday.  But no road followed the
Silf, which ran in a deep ravine, and he was compelled to bear
north again till he found a road which would take him south through
the forest.  But he knew now his position on the map, and he hoped
to reach his destination before dark, when his machine began to
give trouble.  Jaikie was a poor mechanic and it took him three
hours before he set the mischief right.  By this time the dark
skies were darkening further into twilight.  There was no shelter
for the night in the forest, so he decided to struggle on till at
any rate he was out of the trees.  The map showed a considerable
village on the southern skirts which would surely provide an inn.

His lamp gave him further trouble, for it would not stay lit.  He
had been soaked since early in the day, for Ashie could not provide
him with overalls, and his shabby mackintosh was no protection
against the deluge.  He was also hungry, for he had long ago
finished his supply of biscuits and chocolate.  The consolations of
philosophy, of which he had a good stock, were nearly exhausted
when he skidded on the tarmac of the trunk highway.

Archie laughed boisterously.

"I was just saying that we had dangerously dispersed our forces,
but now we've begun to concentrate.  Where have you been, my lad?"

Jaikie, grinning sheepishly at Alison, shook the water from his
ancient hat, and pushed back a lock of hair which had straggled
over his left eye.

"I've been circumnavigating Evallonia.  I daresay I've come two
hundred miles."

"Was that purpose or accident?"

"Accident.  I've been lost most of the day up on the edge of the
hills.  And I've got a relic of a bicycle.  But what are you doing
here?"

"Accident, too.  This car of McCunn's soured on him, so we sent him
and the Prince on to Krovolin in mine, and Janet and Alison and I
are waiting here like Babes in the Wood till we're rescued."

"Have you any food to spare?" Jaikie asked.  He had recovered his
spirits, and saw his misadventures in a more cheerful light, since
they had led to this meeting.

Alison gave him some coffee out of the thermos and the remains of
the biscuits.

"You're a grisly sight, Jaikie," she said severely.  "I've seen
many a tattie-bogle that looked more respectable."

"I know," he said meekly.  "I've been looking a bit of a ragamuffin
for a long time, but to-day has put the lid on it."

"You simply can't show yourself to the Countess like that.  You
look like a tramp that has been struck by lightning and then
drowned."

"I thought I might find an inn where I could tidy up and get my
clothes dried."

"Nothing will tidy you up.  Juventus are a dressy lot, you know,
and they'll set the dogs on you."

"But I have letters from Ashie."  He dived into his inner pocket
and drew forth a sodden sheaf.  "Gosh! they're pulp!  The rain's
got at them and the ink has run.  They're unreadable.  What on
earth am I do?"

"You're a child of calamity.  Didn't you think of oilskin or brown
paper? . . .  You'd better come on with us to Krovolin for a wash
and brush up, and Prince Odalchini will find you more decent
clothes."

Jaikie shook his head.  "I must obey orders.  That's the first rule
of Juventus, and I belong to Juventus now.  Properly speaking, I'm
at present your enemy. . . .  I must be getting on, for I've a big
job before me.  I'm glad you pushed off the Prince and Mr McCunn,
for they also have their job.  You three are only camp-followers."

"You're an ungrateful beast," said Alison indignantly, "to call us
camp-followers, when you know I came hundreds of miles because you
said you needed me. . . .  Get off then to your assignation.  A
pretty figure you'll cut in a lady's bower!"

Jaikie's face fell.  "Lord, but duty is an awful thing!  I funk
that interview more than anything I remember.  What, by the way, is
her proper name?  I must get that right, for Ashie, who's her
cousin, calls her Mintha."

"She is the Countess Araminta Troyos--have you got that?  How do
you propose to approach her?  Mr Galt to see the Countess on
private business?  Or a courier from the Praefectus of the Western
Wing?"

"I'm going first to the Professor man--what's his name--Doctor
Jagon.  He won't make much of this mass of pulp, but he may
remember me from the Canonry.  Anyway, I think I can persuade him
that I'm honest."

Jaikie was in the act of wheeling his machine into the track which
ran south when he started at a shout of Archie's, and turning his
head saw the glow of a great car lighting up the aisle among the
trees.

"Well done the Prince," said Archie.  "Gad, he's done us proud and
sent two cars--there's another behind."

"But they're coming from the wrong direction," said Janet.

An avalanche of light sped through the darkness, and the faces of
the waiting four took on an unearthly whiteness.  This was a
transformation so sudden and startling that each remained
motionless--Jaikie with his hand on his bicycle, Alison holding the
thermos, Janet with her head poked out of the car, and Archie with
one foot on the step.  The lights halted, and the two cars were
revealed.  They were big roadsters with long rakish bonnets, and in
each were two men.

Jaikie happened to be nearest, and he was the first to recognise
the occupants.  The man at the wheel he did not know, and what he
could see of his face was only a long nose between his hat and the
collar of his waterproof.  But the other who sat beside him was
unmistakable.  He saw the forward-thrusting jaw, the blunt nose,
and the ominous eyes of Mastrovin.

His first thought was to get off, for he considered that he alone
of the four was likely to be interfered with.  But unfortunately
the recognition had been mutual.  Mastrovin cried a sharp word of
command which brought the two men out of the second car, and he
himself with surprising agility leaped on to the road.  Jaikie
found himself held by strong hands and looking into a most
unfriendly face.

"I am in luck," said Mastrovin.  "We did not finish our
conversation the other day, Mr--Galt, I think you said the name
was?  I am glad to have the opportunity of continuing it, and now I
think we shall not be interrupted."

"Sorry," said Jaikie, "but I can't wait."

"Sorry," was the answer, "but you must."

Jaikie found his hands wrenched from the bicycle handles and his
person in the grip of formidable arms.  He observed that Mastrovin
had turned his attention to the others.

"How are you, Mr Mastrovin?" he heard Archie say in a voice of
falsetto cheerfulness.  "We met, you remember, at Geneva?"

"We have met since," was the answer.  "We met in a hut in the
mountains at Unnutz."  There was an unpleasant suggestion in his
tone that that meeting had not been satisfactory.

Mastrovin peered within the car and saw Janet, who apparently did
not interest him.  But Alison was a different matter.  He must have
had a good memory for faces, for he instantly recognised her.

"Another from Unnutz," he said.  "A young lady who took early
morning walks in the hills.  So!"  He cried a word to the driver of
his car, which Jaikie did not understand.  Then he faced Sir
Archie, his brows drawn to a straight line and his mouth puckered
in a mirthless smile.

"You are the English who have been in the House of the Four Winds.
I did not think I was mistaken. . . .  Two of you I have seen
elsewhere--at the time I suspected you and now I know.  You have
meddled in what does not concern you, and you must take the
consequences."

He rasped out the final words in a voice which made it plain that
these consequences would not be pleasant.  Archie, whose temper was
rising, found himself looking into the barrel of a pistol held in a
very steady hand.

"Do not be foolish," Mastrovin said.  "We are four armed men, and
we do not take chances.  You will accompany us--you and the women.
You are in no danger if you do as I bid you, but it is altogether
necessary that for a little you should be kept out of mischief."

Archie's angry protests were checked on his lips, they were so
manifestly futile.  Janet and he were ordered into the first car,
where Mastrovin took the seat opposite them.  They were permitted
to take their baggage, and that was bundled into the second car,
whither Alison accompanied it.  The man who was holding Jaikie
asked a question, oddly enough in French, to which Mastrovin
replied by bidding him put the "little rat" beside the luggage.
Jaikie found himself on a folding seat with a corner of Archie's
kit-bag in his ribs and Alison sitting before him.

The cars sped down the Krovolin road, and after some five miles
they passed another car coming in the opposite direction.  That,
thought Jaikie, must be the relief sent by Prince Odalchini. . . .
He was in what for him was a rare thing, a mood of black despair.
Partly it was due to his weary and sodden body, but the main cause
was that he had suddenly realised the true posture of affairs.  He
had slipped idly into this business, as had the others, regarding
it only as an amusing game, a sort of undergraduate "rag."  There
was a puzzle to solve, where wits and enterprise could come into
play, but the atmosphere was opéra-bouffe, or at the best comedy.
The perplexed Ashie was a comic figure; so were Prince Odalchini
and the Monarchists; so was the formidable Countess Mintha; so even
two days ago had seemed Mastrovin.  Alison and Janet and Archie
were all votaries of the comic spirit.

But now he realised that there were darker things.  Mastrovin's
pistol had suddenly dispelled the air of agreeable farce, and
opened the veils of tragedy.  The jungle was next door to the
formal garden--and the beasts of the jungle.  As in the library of
Castle Gay two years before, he had a glimpse of wolfish men and an
underworld of hideous things.  That night for the second time he
had been called a rat by Mastrovin and his friends, but the insult
did not sting him, for he was in the depths of self-abasement.  The
bitter thought galled his mind that he had brought Alison into a
grim business.  For that he was alone responsible, and he saw no
way out.  It was bad that he should be compelled to fail Ashie, for
his mission was now hopeless, but it was worse that Alison should
have to pay for his folly.  Mastrovin would never let them go, and
if things went ill with Mastrovin's side he would make them pay the
penalty. . . .  And he was utterly helpless.  He knew nothing of
the country and could not speak the tongue, he had no money, and
only a boy's strength.  Prince Odalchini and Dickson might persist
in their plot and Juventus continue its high career, but Alison and
Janet and Archie and he were out of it for ever, prisoners in some
dim underworld of Mastrovin's contriving.

They came out of the forest to find that the rain had stopped and
that the moon was rising among ragged clouds.  He saw a gleam of
water and what looked like the spires of a city.  They were being
taken to Krovolin, and presently they approached the first houses
of its western faubourg. . . .  And then something happened which
brought a thin ray of hope to Jaikie's distressed soul.  There were
lights in an adjacent field, and from them came the strains of a
fiddle.  It was playing Dvorak's Humoresque, and that was the
favourite tune of Luigi of the Cirque Doré.



X

AURUNCULEIA


The familiar melody brought only a momentary refreshment to
Jaikie's spirit.  The feeling was strong upon him that he had
stumbled out of comedy into a melodrama which might soon darken
into tragedy.  As they entered the city of Krovolin, this mood was
increased by the sight of unmistakable pistols in the hands of his
guards.  Some kind of watch was kept at the entrance, for both cars
were stopped and what sounded like pass-words were exchanged.
Krovolin he knew was the headquarters of the Monarchists, but
Mastrovin, having spent all his life in intrigue, was not likely to
be stopped by so small a thing as that.  It was like his audacity
to have domiciled himself in the enemy's camp, and he probably knew
most of that enemy's secrets.  Jaikie dismissed the thought of
appealing to these Monarchist sentries and demanding to be taken to
Count Casimir, for he was convinced that at that game he would be
worsted.  Besides, he could not talk the language.

The hour was late, and there were few people in the well-lit street
which descended to the bridge of the river.  The cars turned along
the edge of the water over vile cobbles, and presently wove their
way into a maze of ancient squalor.  This was the Krovolin of the
Middle Ages, narrow lanes with high houses on both sides, the tops
of which bent forward so as to leave only a slender ribbon of sky.
Up a side alley they went, and after many twistings came to the
entrance of a yard.  Here they were clearly expected, for a figure
stood on watch outside, who after a word with Mastrovin opened a
pair of ancient rickety gates.  The car scraped through with
difficulty, and Jaikie found himself in a cobbled space which might
once have been the courtyard of a house.  Now the moon showed it as
a cross between a garage and a builder's yard, for it held two
other cars, a motor-lorry, and what looked like the debris of a
recent earthquake.  When he got out he promptly fell over a heap of
rubble and a sheaf of spades.  Somebody had recently been digging
there.

He was given no time to prospect.  Mastrovin came forward, bowed to
Alison and shepherded her to the side of Janet and Archie.  Two men
took charge of the baggage, and the party were conducted indoors.
For a moment Jaikie was left alone, and his hopes rose--perhaps he
was too humble for Mastrovin's attentions.  He was speedily
undeceived, for the man who had been with Mastrovin at Tarta gave
an order, and the fellow who had been outside the gate clutched
Jaikie's arm.  He was also a prisoner, only a more disconsidered
one than the others.  He was pushed through a door and prodded down
a passage and up a narrow staircase, till he reached a little room
smelling abominably of garlic.  It was a bedroom, for there was a
truckle bed and a deal table carrying on it the stump of a candle.
His conductor nodded to the bed, on which he flung Jaikie's
rucksack, and then departed, after locking the door.

There was a window which seemed to look out upon a pit of darkness.
It was not shuttered, but the sashes were firmly bolted.  By
bending low Jaikie could see upwards to a thin streak of light.
The room must be on the street side, and what he saw was a strip of
moonlit sky.  It must also be on the first floor, for he had
ascended only one flight of stairs.  If this was meant as a prison
it was an oddly insecure one.

But all thought of immediate escape was prevented by the state of
his body.  He was immeasurably weary, and so sleepy that his eyes
were gummed together, a condition which with him usually followed a
day of hard exercise in the rain.  The stuffiness of the place
increased his drowsiness.  He sat on the edge of the bed and tried
to think, but his mind refused to work.  He must have sleep before
he could do anything.  He stripped off his sodden clothes, and
found that he was not so wet as he had feared--of his under-
garments only the collar and sleeves of his shirt had suffered.  He
hung them to dry on rusty nails with which the walls were
abundantly provided.  There were plenty of bedclothes and they
seemed clean, so, wrapping his naked body in them, he was presently
asleep.

He woke to a dusty twilight, but there was a hum out-of-doors which
suggested that it was full day.  A glance from the window showed
him that though the sun had not yet got into the alley the
morning's life had begun.  The place was full of people, and by
standing on the sill he could see their heads beneath him.  He had
been right--the room was on the first story.  It bulged out above
the street, so his vision was limited; he saw the people in the
middle and on the other side, but not those directly beneath him.

He was very hungry, for he had had scanty rations the day before,
and he wondered if breakfast was included in this new régime.
There was no sign of it, so he turned his attention to the window.
It was of an old-fashioned type, with folding sashes secured by
slim iron bars which ran into sockets where they were held by
padlocks.  Jaikie was a poor mechanic, but he saw that these bolts
would be hard to tamper with.  If the place were kept sealed up
like this no wonder the air was foul.  Fortunately the sun could
not make itself felt in that cavern of a street, but, all the same,
by noon it would be an oven.

This was a disheartening thought, and it took the edge off his
appetite.  What he particularly wanted was something to drink, beer
for preference, but he would have made shift with water.  He lay
down on the bed, for to look out of the sealed window only
distressed him.

As the morning advanced he must have slept again, for the opening
of the door woke him with a start.  The newcomer was Mastrovin.

He looked very square and bulky in that narrow place, and he seemed
to be in an ugly temper.  He walked to the window and examined the
fastenings.  Jaikie observed for the first time that there were no
shutters.  What if he smashed the glass and dropped into the
street?  It could not be more than ten yards, and he was as light
on his feet as a cat.

Mastrovin may have guessed his thought, for he turned to him with a
sour smile.

"Do not delude yourself, Mr--Galt, isn't it?  That window is only
the inner works of this fortress.  Even if you opened it you would
be no better off.  The outer works would still have to be passed,
and they are human walls, stronger than stone and lime."

"Am I to have any breakfast?" Jaikie asked.  "I don't suppose it's
any good asking you what you mean by bringing me here.  But most
gaolers feed their prisoners."

"I am the exception.  Life at present is too hurried with me to
preserve the amenities.  But a word from you will get you
breakfast; liberty also--conditional liberty.  You cannot be
released just at once, but I will have you taken to a more
comfortable place.  That word is the present address of Prince
John."

Mastrovin spoke as Jaikie remembered once hearing a celebrated
statesman speak when on a visit to Cambridge--slowly, pronouncing
his words as if he relished the sound of them, giving his sentences
an oratorical swing.  It was certainly impressive.

"I haven't the remotest idea," he said, speaking the strictest
truth.

"Let me repeat," said Mastrovin with a great air of patience.  "The
English have long been suspected of dabbling in Monarchist plots.
That I have already told you.  You have been at Tarta in the House
of the Four Winds, which is the home of such plots.  Did not my
people pick you out of it?  You admitted to me that you were
acquainted with Prince Odalchini.  Where, I ask you now, is Prince
Odalchini's master?"

"I tell you, I don't know.  As I told you at Tarta, I heard a
rumour that he was with some lady called the Countess Troyos."

"That rumour is a lie," said Mastrovin fiercely.  "For a moment I
believed it, but I have since proved it a lie.  What is more, when
you told it me you knew it was a lie.  I repeat my question."  The
formidable eyebrows were drawn together, and the whole man became
an incarnate menace.  Jaikie, empty, headachy, sitting in his
shabby clothes on the edge of the bed, felt very small and forlorn.
He sometimes felt like that, and on such occasions he would have
given all he possessed for another stone of weight and another two
inches of height.

"I don't know," he said.  "How should I know?  I'm an ordinary
English tourist who came to Evallonia by accident.  I don't know
anybody in it except Prince Odalchini . . . and Count Paul Jovian--
and you."

"You will know a good deal more about me very soon, my friend.
Listen.  You are lying--I am a judge of liars, and I can read your
face.  You are a friend of the three other English--the man and the
two women--I find you in the forest in their company.  Of these
other English I know something.  I last saw them in the
neighbourhood of Prince John, and it is certain that they know
where he has gone and what he is now doing.  That knowledge I
demand you to share--and at once."

"I don't know what the others know, but I know what I don't know.
Though you kept me here till I had a long grey beard I couldn't
give you any other answer."

"You will not stay long enough to grow a beard.  Only a little
time, but it will not be a pleasant time.  You will do what I ask,
I think.  The others--the others are, as you say in England, of the
gentry--a politician and baronet--two ladies of birth.  I hold such
distinctions as less than rotten wood, but I am a man of the world,
and now and then I must submit to the world's valuation. . . .  But
you are of a different class.  You are of the people, the new
educated proletariat on which England prides herself. . . .  With
you I can use elementary methods. . . .  With the others in time,
if they are stubborn . . . but with you, now."

He spat out the last words with extraordinary venom.  No doubt he
thought that in that moment he was being formidable, but as a
matter of fact to Jaikie he had ceased to be even impressive.  He
had insulted him, threatened him, had wakened the small efficient
devil that lived at the back of his mind.  Jaikie was very angry,
and with him wrath always blanketed fear.  He saw Mastrovin now,
not as a sinister elemental force, but as a common posturing bully.

He yawned.

"I wish you'd send me up some breakfast," he said.  "A cup of
coffee, if you've nothing else."

Mastrovin moved to the door.

"You will get no food until you speak.  And no drink.  Soon this
room will be as hot as hell, and may you roast in it!"

The exhilaration of Jaikie's anger did not last long, though it
left behind it a very solid dislike.  He realised that he had got
himself into an awkward place, from which every exit seemed
blocked.  But what struck cold at his heart was the peril of
Alison.  He had heard at the House of the Four Winds of her days at
Unnutz, and he realised that Mastrovin had good grounds for
connecting her and Janet and Archie with Prince John's disappearance.
He must have suspected them from the start, and the sight of the
trio at Tarta had clinched his suspicions.

Jaikie tried to set out the case soberly and logically.  Prince
John was for Mastrovin the key of the whole business.  If he could
lay hands on him he could render the Monarchists impotent.  He was
probably clever enough to have foreseen the possibilities of
Juventus taking up the Prince's cause, for without the Prince or
somebody like him Juventus would spend its strength on futilities.
So long as it had no true figure-head it was at the mercy of
Mastrovin and his underworld gang.  The settlement of Evallonia was
the one thing the latter must prevent: the waters must be kept
troubled, for only then could he fish with success. . . .  Jaikie
saw all that.  He saw Mastrovin's purpose, and knew that he would
stop at nothing to effect it, for he was outside the pale of the
decencies.  He meant to try to starve Jaikie himself into
submission; but, far worse, he would play the same game with Alison
and Janet.  All four had stumbled out of a bright world into a
mediæval gloom which stank horribly of the Inquisition.

For a moment his heart failed him.  Then his sense of feebleness
changed into desperation.  He knew that the lives of the other
three depended on him, and the knowledge stung him into action.
Never had he felt so small and feeble and insignificant, but never
so determined.  A memory came to him of that night long ago at
Huntingtower when the forlorn little band of the Gorbals Die-hards
had gone into action.  He remembered his cold fury, which had
revealed itself in copious tears.  Nowadays he did not weep, but if
there had been a mirror in the room it would have shown a sudden
curious pallor in his small face.

He set to work on the window.  His rucksack had been searched for
weapons, but he had in his pocket what is known as a sportsman's
knife, an implement with one blade as strong as a gully, and with
many gadgets.  He could do nothing with the bolts and the padlocks,
but he might cut into the supporting wood.

It proved an easier task than he had feared.  The windows across
the street were shuttered, so he could work without fear of
detection.  The socket of the lower bolt had a metal plate
surrounding it, but the upper was fair game for his knife.  The
wood was old and hard, but after labouring for an hour or two he
managed to dig out the square into which the bolt fastened.  That
released the top of one window, and he turned to the harder job of
the bottom.

Here he had an unexpected bit of luck.  There seemed something
queer about the lower padlock, and to his joy he found that he
could open it.  It had been locked without the tongue being driven
home.  This was providential, for the lower part was solidly
sheathed in metal and his knife would have been useless.  With some
difficulty he drew the stiff bolts, and one half of the window was
at his disposal.

Very gingerly he pushed it open.  A hot breath of air came in on
him from the baking alley, but it was fresh air and it eased his
headache.  Then cautiously he put his head out and looked down upon
the life of the street.

Mastrovin had not been bluffing.  There were strong outworks to
this fortress, and the outworks were human.  Few people were about,
perhaps because it was the time for the midday meal.  It was a
squalid enough place, with garbage in the gutters, but it had one
pleasant thing, a runnel of water beside the pavement on the other
side, no doubt a leat from the Rave or the Silf.  The sight of the
stream made his thirst doubly vexatious, but he had no time to
think of it, for something else filled his eye.  There were men on
guard--two below his window, and one on the kerb opposite.  This
last might have seen him, but happily he was looking the other way.

Jaikie drew in his head and shut the window.

That way lay no hope of escape.  If he dropped into the street it
would be into such arms as had received him on Prince Odalchini's
terrace.

This was disheartening, but at first he was not greatly disheartened.
The fact that he had made an opening into the outer world had given
him an illogical hope.  Also he could now abate the stuffiness of
his prison-house.  The place was still an oven, but the heat was
not stifling.  In time evening would come--and night. Might not
something be done in the darkness?  He had better try to sleep.

But as he lay on the bed he found that his thoughts, quickened by
anxiety for Alison, ran in a miserable whirligig and that hope was
very low.  Mastrovin was taking no chances.  Before night he would
probably examine the window; in any case his ruffians below were
likely to be on stricter duty.  His own bodily discomfort added to
his depression, for his tongue was like a stick and he was sick
with hunger.  A man, he knew, could fast for many days if only he
had water, but if he had neither food nor drink his strength would
soon ebb.

What, he wondered, was Alison doing?  Enduring the same misery?
Not yet--though that would come unless he could bestir himself.
But she and Janet and Archie must be pretty low in mind. . . .  He
remembered that he was failing Prince Odalchini and Ashie, and
doing nothing about the duty which had been assigned him.  But that
was the least of his troubles.  This infernal country might go hang
for all he cared.  What mattered was Alison.

One thought maddened him--that the four of them had gone clean out
of the ken of their friends.  It would be supposed that at the
moment he was with the Countess Araminta, and no one would begin to
ask questions.  About the other three there might be some fuss, for
the relief car would find the derelict in the forest.  Also his
motor-bicycle, though again that would mean nothing to anybody.
Archie and his party were expected to join Dickson and Prince
Odalchini at Count Casimir's headquarters.  When they did not
arrive and the derelict was found there would no doubt be a hue-
and-cry.  But to what effect?  Mastrovin would have covered his
tracks, and the last place to look for the missing would be the
slums of Krovolin.  The best hiding-place was under the light.

The street had been almost noiseless in the early afternoon, when
good citizens were taking their siesta.  About three it woke up a
little.  There was a drunken man who sang, and from the window
Jaikie saw the tops of greengrocers' carts moving country-wards,
after the forenoon market.  After that there was silence again, and
then the tramp of what sounded like a police patrol.  Between four
and five there was considerable movement and the babble of voices.
Perhaps the street was a short cut between two popular thoroughfares;
at any rate it became suddenly quite a lively place.  There were
footsteps outside his door, and Jaikie closed the window in a hurry
and lay back on the bed.  Was Mastrovin about to pay him another
visit?  But whoever it was thought better of it, and he heard the
steps retreating down the stairs.  They had scarcely died away,
when out of doors came a sound which set Jaikie's nerves tingling.
Someone was playing on a flute, and the tune was Dvorak's
Humoresque.

He flew to the window and cautiously looked out.  There was no
watcher on the opposite pavement.  Quite a number of people were in
the street, shopgirls and clerks for the most part on their way
home.  A beggar was playing in the gutter, playing a few bars and
then supplicating the passers-by.  His face was towards Jaikie, who
observed that he wore a gipsy cap of cats' skins and for the rest
was a ruin of rags.  Underneath the cap there was a glimpse of dark
southern eyes and a hairy unshaven face.

The man as he played kept an eye on Jaikie's window when he was not
ogling the shop-girls.  The light in the street was poor, and he
seemed to be looking for something and to be uncertain if he had
found it.  Jaikie stuck his head farther out, and this seemed to
give the man what he sought.  He took his eyes off the window,
finished his tune, and held out his cap for alms.  Jaikie saw the
gleam of earrings.  Then he blew into his flute, pocketed it, and
started to shamble inconspicuously down the gutter till in a minute
he was lost to view.

Jaikie shut the window and resolutely stretched himself on the bed.
But now his mood had wholly changed.  Luigi had seen him.  The
Cirque Doré knew his whereabouts.  Soon it would be dark, and then
Randal Glynde would come to his rescue.

So complete was his trust in Mr Glynde that he forebore to
speculate on the nature of the rescue.  Had he done so he might
have been less confident.  Here in this squalid place Mastrovin was
all powerful, and he had his myrmidons around him.  The Cirque Doré
could produce no fighting men; besides, any attempt at violence
would probably mean death for those on whose behalf it was used.
Mastrovin had the manners of the jungle. . . .  Jaikie thought of
none of these things.  His only fear was of a second visit from his
gaoler, when, if he proved recalcitrant, he might be removed to
other quarters in this dark rabbit-warren.  At all costs he must
remain where Luigi had seen him.

Jaikie had now forgotten both his thirst and hunger.  As the room
darkened into twilight he lay listening for footsteps on the
stairs.  The falling of plaster, the scurrying of rats, the
creaking of old timbers threw him into a sweat of fear.  But no
steps came.  The noises of the street died away, and the place
began to settle into its eery nightly quiet.

Suddenly from out of doors came a tumultuous and swelling sound.
At first Jaikie thought that a rising had broken out in some part
of the city, for the noise was that of many people shouting.  But
there were no shots, and the tumult had no menace in it.  It grew
louder, so it was coming nearer.  He looked into the darkness, and
far on his right he saw wavering lights, which from their
inconstancy must be torches held in unsteady hands.  The thing,
whatever it was, was coming down this street.

There was a patter of feet below him, and he saw a mob of urchins,
the forerunners of the procession, who trotted ahead with frequent
backward glances.  The light broadened till the alley was bright as
day, but with a fearsome murky glow.  It was torches, sure enough,
carried and waved by four half-naked figures with leopard-skin
mantles and chaplets of flowers on their heads.  Behind them came
four cream-coloured ponies, also garlanded, drawing a sort of Roman
chariot, and in that chariot was a preposterous figure who now and
then stood on its head, now and then balanced itself on the
chariot's rim, and all the time kept up a shrill patter and the
most imbecile grimaces.  He recognised Meleager, the clown of the
Cirque Doré.

Jaikie knew that the moment had come.  The rescue party had arrived
and he must join it.  But how?  It was not halting; in a moment
Meleager's chariot had passed on, and he was looking down on zebras
ridden by cowboys.  It was not a big circus, and the procession
could not last long, so he must get ready for action.

He noticed that it was hugging his side of the street, so that the
accompanying crowd was all on the far pavement.  That meant that
Mastrovin's watchers could not keep their places just below him.
Did Randal Glynde mean him to drop down and move under the cover of
the cavalcade?  That must be it, he thought.  He opened the window
wide, and sat crouched on the sill.

Then he noticed another thing.  The whole procession was not lit
up, but clusters of torches and flares alternated with no lights at
all, and the dark patches were by contrast very dark.  He must
descend into one of these tracts of blackness.

Marie Antoinette, or somebody like her, had just passed in a gaudy
illuminated coach, and he made ready to drop into her wake.  But a
special tumult warned him that something odd was following.  Though
an unlit patch succeeded, the crowd on the opposite kerb seemed to
be thicker.  Straining his eyes to the right he saw a huge shadow
moving up the alley, so close to his side of the street that it
seemed to be shouldering the houses.  It was high, not six feet
below his perch, and it was broad, for it stretched across to the
very edge of the runnel of water.  And it moved fast, as fast as
the trotting ponies, though the sound of its movement was lost in
the general din.

It was under him, and, clutching his rucksack, he jumped for it.  A
hand caught his collar, and dumped him between two pads.  He found
himself looking up at the stars from the back of the elephant
Aurunculeia.

He lay still for a time, breathing in the clean air, while Mr
Glynde was busy with his duties as mahout.  Presently they were out
of the narrow street, and Aurunculeia swung more freely now that
dust was under her and not cobbles.

"You did well," said Mr Glynde.  "I did not overrate your
intelligence."

Jaikie roused himself.

"Thank God you came," he said.  "I don't know how to thank you.
But the job isn't finished, for there are three other people left
in that beastly house."

"So I guessed," said Mr Glynde.  "Well, everything in good time.
First we must get you safely off.  We cut things pretty fine, you
know.  Just as you joined our convoy someone came into your room
with a light.  I got a glimpse of his face and it was familiar.  At
present he is probably looking for you in the street. . . .  But he
may push his researches farther."



XI

THE BLOOD-RED ROOK


Jaikie was not conscious of most of that evening's ride.  Thirty-
six hours of short commons and the gentle swaying of Aurunculeia
made him feel slightly sea-sick and then very drowsy.  He found a
strap in the trappings through which he crooked his arm, and the
next he knew he was being lifted down a step-ladder by Randal
Glynde in a place which smelt of horses and trodden herbage.

Mr Glynde was a stern host.  He gave him a bowl of soup with bread
broken into it, but nothing more.  "You must sleep before you eat
properly," he said, "or you'll be as sick as a dog."  Jaikie, who
was still a little light-headed, would have gladly followed this
advice, when something in Randal's face compelled his attention.
It was very grave, and he remembered it only as merry.  The sight
brought back to him his immediate past, and the recollection of the
stifling room in the ill-omened house effectively dispelled his
drowsiness.  He had left Alison behind him.

"I can't stay here," he croaked.  "I must get the others out. . . .
That man's a devil.  He'll stick at nothing. . . .  What about
Count Casimir?  He's a big swell here, isn't he? and he has other
Monarchists with him. . . .  Where are we now?  I should get to him
at once, for every hour is important."  Then, as Randal remained
silent, with the same anxious eyes, he said, "Oh, for God's sake,
do something.  Make a plan.  You know this accursed country and I
don't."

"You have just escaped from the most dangerous place in Europe,"
said Randal solemnly.  "I think you are safe now, but it was a
narrower thing than you imagine.  The wild beast is in his lair,
and a pretty well-defended lair it is.  You may smoke him out, but
it may be a bad thing for those he has got in the lair beside him."

Jaikie's wits were still muddled, but one feeling was clear and
strong, a horror of that slum barrack in the mean street.

"Are there no police in Krovolin?" he demanded.

"The ordinary police would not be much use in what has been a
secret rendezvous for years.  The place is a honeycomb.  You might
plant an army round it, and Mastrovin would slip out--and leave
ugly things behind him."

Jaikie shuddered.

"Then I'm going back.  You don't understand. . . .  I can't go
off and leave the others behind.  You see, I brought your cousin
here . . . Alison--"  He ended his sentence with something like a
moan.

Randal for the first time smiled.  "I expected something like that
from you.  It may be the only way--but not yet.  Alison and the
Roylances are not in immediate danger.  At present to Mastrovin
they are important means of knowledge.  When that fails they may
become hostages.  Only in the last resort will they be victims."

"Give me a cigarette, please," said Jaikie.  He suddenly felt the
clouds of nausea and weariness roll away from him.  He had got his
second wind.  "Now tell me what is happening."

Randal nodded to a sheaf of newspapers on the floor of the caravan.

"The popular press, at least the Monarchist brand of it, announces
that the Archduke Hadrian has crossed the Evallonian frontier.  One
or two papers say that he is now in Krovolin.  They all publish his
portrait--the right portrait.  Prince Odalchini's staff-work is
rather good."

Jaikie found himself confronted with a large-size photograph of
Dickson McCunn.  It must have been recently taken, for Mr McCunn
was wearing the clothes which he had worn at Tarta.

"I have other news," Randal continued, "which is not yet in the
press.  The Archduke, being an old man, is at present resting from
the fatigue of his journey.  To-morrow afternoon, accompanied by
his chief supporters, he will move to Melina through a rejoicing
country.  It has all been carefully stage-managed.  His escort, two
troops of the National Guard, arrive here in the morning.  The
distance is only fifteen miles, and part of the road will be lined
with His Royal Highness's soldiers.  Melina is already occupied on
his behalf, and the Palace is being prepared for his reception."

"Gosh!" said Jaikie.  "How are people taking that?"

"Sedately.  The Evallonians are not a politically-minded nation.
They are satisfied that the hated Republic is no more, and will
accept any Government that promises stability.  As for His Royal
Highness, they have forgotten all about him, but they have a
tenderness for the old line, and they believe him to be
respectable."

"He is certainly that.  How about Juventus?"

"Juventus is excited, desperately excited, but not about the
Archduke.  They regard him as a piece of antiquated lumber, the
last card of a discredited faction.  But the rumour has gone abroad
that Prince John has joined them, and that has given them what they
have been longing for, a picturesque figure-head.  I have my own
ways of getting news, and the same report has come in from all the
Wings.  The young men are huzzaing for the Prince, who like
themselves is young.  Their presses are scattering his photograph
broadcast.  Their senior officers, many of whom are of the old
families, are enthusiastic.  Now at last the wheel has come full
circle for them--they have a revolution of youth which is also a
restoration, and youth will lead it.  They are organised to the
last decimal, remember, and they have the bulk of the national
feeling behind them, except here in Krovolin and in the capital.
They are sitting round the periphery of Evallonia waiting for the
word to close in.  Incidentally they have shut the frontier, and
are puzzled to understand how the Archduke managed to cross it
without their knowledge.  When the word is given there will be a
march on Melina, just like Mussolini's march on Rome.  There is
only one trouble--the Countess Araminta."

"Yes.  What about her?" was Jaikie's gloomy question.

"That young woman," said Randal, "must be at present in a difficult
temper and not free from confusion of mind.  She has not been
consulted about Prince John; therefore she will be angry.  All
Juventus believes that the Prince is now with her Wing, but she
knows that to be untrue.  She has not seen His Royal Highness since
she was a little girl. . . .  Besides, there's another complication.
I said that Juventus was waiting.  But not the Countess.  Some days
ago she took the bit between her teeth, and started to march on
Krovolin.  My information is that to-night she is encamped less
than ten miles from this city.  To-morrow should see her at its
gates."

"Then she'll pinch Mr McCunn before he starts."

"Precisely.  At any rate there will be fighting, and for the sake
of the future it is very necessary that there should be no
fighting.  At the first rifle-shot the game will get out of hand."

"Can't you get him off sooner?"

"Apparently no.  Some time is needed for the arrangements in
Melina, and already the programme has had to be telescoped."

"What a hideous mess!  What's to be done?  She must be stopped."

"She must.  That is the job to which I invite your attention."

"Me!"  The ejaculation was wrung from Jaikie by a sudden
realisation of the state of his garments.  His flannel bags were
shrunken and to the last degree grimy, his tweed jacket was a mere
antique, his shoes gaped, his hands and presumably his face were
black with dust.  Once again he felt, sharp as a toothache, his
extreme insignificance.

Randal followed his glance.  "You are certainly rather a scarecrow,
but I think I can make you more presentable.  You must go.  You
see, you are the last hope."

"Couldn't you--?" Jaikie began.

"No," was the decided answer.  "I have my own work to do, which is
as vital as yours.  There is one task before you.  You must get her
to halt in her tracks."

"She won't listen to me."

"No doubt she won't--at first.  She'll probably have you sent to
whatever sort of dungeon a field force provides.  But you have one
master-card."

"Prince John?"

"Prince John.  She must produce him or she will be put to public
shame, and she hasn't a notion where to look for him.  She is a
strong-headed young woman, but she can't defy the public opinion of
the whole of Juventus.  You alone know where the Prince is."

"I don't."

"You will be told . . .  So you can make your terms.  From what I
remember of her you will have a rough passage, but you are not
afraid of the tantrums of a minx."

"I am.  Horribly."

Randal smiled.  "I don't believe you are really afraid of
anything."

"I'm in a desperate funk of one thing, and that is, what is going
to happen to Alison."

"So am I.  You are fond, I think, of Cousin Alison.  Perhaps you
are lovers?"

Jaikie blushed furiously.

"I have been in love with her for two years."

"And she?"

"I don't know.  I hope . . . some day."

"You are a chilly Northern pair of children.  Well, she is my most
beloved and adored kinswoman, and for her sake I would commit most
crimes.  We are agreed about that.  It is for the sake of Alison
and the sweet Lady Roylance that you and I are going into action.
I wait in Krovolin and keep an eye on Mastrovin.  He is a master of
ugly subterranean things, but I also have certain moles at my
command.  There will be a watch kept on the Street of the White
Peacock--that is the name of the dirty alley--a watch of which our
gentleman will know nothing.  When the Cirque Doré mobilises itself
it has many eyes and ears.  For you the task is to immobilise the
Countess.  Your price is the revelation of Prince John.  Your
reason, which she will assuredly ask, is not that the Archduke
should get safely off to Melina--for remember your sympathies are
with Juventus.  It is not even that the coming revolution must not
be spoiled by bloodshed, and thereby get an ill name in Europe.
She would not listen to you on that matter.  It is solely that your
friends are in the power of Mastrovin, whom she venomously hates.
If she enters Krovolin Mastrovin will be forced into action, and
she knows what that will mean."

Jaikie saw suddenly a ray of hope.

"What sort of woman is she?" he asked.  "Couldn't I put it to her
that she has not merely to sit tight, but has to help to get my
friends out of Mastrovin's clutches?  I can't do anything myself,
for I don't know the place or the language.  But she is sure to
have some hefty fellows with her to make up a rescue party.  She
can't refuse that if she's anything of a sportsman.  It's a fair
deal.  She'll have the Prince if she gives me my friends.  By the
way, I suppose you can produce the man when I call for him?"

"I can.  What's more, I can give you something if she asks for
proof.  It's the mourning ring prepared for his late Majesty, which
only the royal family possess.  She'll recognise it."

Randal's gravity had slightly melted.  "I think you could do with a
drink now," he said.  "Brandy and soda.  I prescribe it, for it's
precisely what you need.  Do you know, I think you have hit upon
the right idea.  Get her keen on doing down Mastrovin, and she
won't bother about the price.  She's an artist for art's sake.
Make it a fight between her and the Devil for the fate of three
innocents and she'll go raging into battle.  I believe she has a
heart, too.  Most brave people have."

As he handed Jaikie his glass, he laughed.

"There's a good old English word that exactly describes your
appearance.  You look 'varminty'--like a terrier that has been down
a badger's earth, and got its nose bitten, and is burning to go
down again."



The car, a dilapidated Ford, fetched a wide circuit in its
southward journey, keeping well to the west of Krovolin, and
cutting at right angles the road from the forest of St Sylvester.
The morning was hazy and close, but after the last two days it
seemed to Jaikie to be as fresh as April.  They crossed the Silf,
and saw it winding to its junction with the Rave, with the city
smoking in the crook of the two streams.  Beyond the Rave a rich
plain stretched east towards the capital, and through that plain
Dickson that afternoon must make his triumphant procession.  Even
now his escort would be jingling Krovolin-wards along its white
roads.

Jaikie had recovered his bodily vigour, but never in his life had
he felt so nervous.  The thought of Alison shut up in Mastrovin's
den gnawed like a physical pain.  The desperate seriousness of his
mission made his heart like lead.  It was the kind of thing he had
not been trained to cope with; he would do his best, but he had
only the slenderest hope.  The figure of the Countess Araminta grew
more formidable the more he thought about her.  Alison at Tarta had
called her the Blood-red Rook--that had been Lady Roylance's name
for her--and had drawn her in colours which suggested a cross
between a vampire and a were-wolf.  Wild, exotic, melodramatic and
reckless--that had been the impression left on his mind.  And women
were good judges of each other.  He could deal with a male
foreigner like Ashie whom Cambridge had partially tamed, but what
could he do with the unbroken female of the species?  He knew less
about women than he knew about the physics of hyperspace.

His forebodings made him go over again his slender assets.  He knew
the line he must take, provided she listened to him.  But how to
get an audience?  The letters which Ashie had given him, being
written on official flimsies, had been reduced to a degraded pulp
by the rain, and he had flung them away.  He had nothing except
Randal's ring, and that seemed to him an outside chance.  His one
hope was to get hold of Dr Jagon.  Jagon would remember him from
the Canonry--or on the other hand he might not.  Still, it was his
best chance.  If he were once in Jagon's presence he might be able
to recall himself to him, and Jagon was the Countess's civilian
adviser.  But his outfit might never get near Jagon; it might be
stopped and sent packing by the first sentry.

It was not a very respectable outfit.  The car was a disgrace.  He
himself had been rigged up by Randal in better clothes than his own
duds, but he realised that they were not quite right, for the
Cirque Doré was scarcely abreast of the fashions.  He had a pair of
riding breeches of an odd tubular shape, rather like what people at
Cambridge wore for beagling, and they were slightly too large for
him.  His coat was one of those absurd Norfolk jacket things that
continentals wear, made of smooth green cloth with a leather belt,
and it had been designed for someone of greater girth than himself.
He had, however, a respectable pair of puttees, and his boots,
though too roomy, were all right, being a pair of Randal's own.  He
must look, he thought, like a shop-boy on a holiday, decent but not
impressive.

Then for the first time he took notice of the chauffeur.  He was
one of the circus people, whom Randal had vouched for as a careful
driver who knew the country.  The chief point about the man's
appearance was that he wore a very ancient trench burberry, which
gave him an oddly English air.  He was apparently middle-aged, for
he had greying side whiskers.  His cheeks had the pallor which
comes from the use of much grease-paint.  There was nothing horsy
about him, so Jaikie set him down as an assistant clown.  He looked
solemn enough for that.  He wondered what language he spoke, so he
tried him in French, telling him that their first business was to
ask for Professor Jagon.

"I know," was the answer.  "The boss told me that this morning."

"Where did you learn English?" Jaikie asked, for the man spoke
without the trace of an accent.

"I am English," he said.  "And I picked up a bit of French in the
war."

"Do you know Evallonia?"

"I've been here off and on for twenty years."

The man had the intonations of a Londoner.  It appeared that his
name was Newsom, and that he had first come to Evallonia as an
under-chauffeur in a family which had been bankrupted by the war.
He had gone home and fought on the British side in a Royal Fusilier
battalion, but after the Armistice he had again tried his fortune
in Evallonia.  His luck had been bad, and Mr Glynde had found him
on his uppers, and given him a job in the circus.  Transport was
his principal business, but he rather fancied himself as a singer,
and just lately had been giving Meleager a hand.  "We're a happy
family in the old Cirque," he said, "and don't stick by trade-union
ways.  I can turn my hand to most anything, and I like a bit of
clowning now and then.  The trouble is that the paint makes my skin
tender.  You were maybe noticing that I'm not very clean shaved
this morning."  And he turned a solemn mottled face for Jaikie's
inspection.

In less than an hour they came out of the woods into a country of
meadows which rose gently to a line of hills.  They also came into
an area apparently under military occupation.  A couple of
Greenshirts barred the road.  Jaikie tried them in English, but
they shook their heads, so he left it to Newsom, who began to
explain in Evallonian slowly, as if he were hunting for words, and
with an accent which to Jaikie's ears sounded insular.  There was a
short discussion, and then the Greenshirts nodded and stood aside.
"They say," said Newsom, "that Dr Jagon's quarters are at the farm
a kilometre on, but they believe that he is now with the Wing-
Commander.  But they don't mind our calling on him.  I said you
were an old friend of his, and brought important news from
Krovolin."

The next turn of the road revealed a very respectable army on the
march.  The night's bivouac had been in a broad cup formed by the
confluence of two streams.  There was a multitude of little tents,
extensive horse-lines, and a car park, and already there were signs
that movement was beginning.  Men were stamping out the breakfast
fires, and saddling horses, and putting mule teams to transport
wagons, and filling the tanks of cars.  "I must hurry," thought
Jaikie, "or that confounded woman will be in Krovolin this
afternoon."  His eye caught a building a little to the rear of the
encampment which had the look of a small hunting-lodge.  The green
and white flag of Juventus was being lowered from its flagstaff.

There was no Jagon at the farm, but there was a medical officer who
understood English.  To him Jaikie made the appeal which he thought
most likely to convince.  He said he was a friend of the Professor--
had known him in England--and brought a message to him of extreme
importance.

The officer rubbed his chin.  "You are behind the fair," he said.
"You come from Krovolin?  Well, we shall be in Krovolin ourselves
in three hours."

"That is my point," said Jaikie.  "There's something about Krovolin
which you should hear.  It concerns Mastrovin."

The name produced an effect.

"Mastrovin!  You come from him?" was the brusque question.

"Only in the sense that I escaped last night from his clutches.
I've something to tell the Professor about Mastrovin which may
alter all your plans."

The officer looked puzzled.

"You are English?" he demanded.  "And he?"  He nodded towards
Newsom.

"Both English, and both friends of Juventus.  I came here as a
tourist and stumbled by accident on some important news which I
thought it my duty to get to Professor Jagon.  He is the only one
of you I know.  I tell you, it's desperately important."

The officer pondered.

"You look an honest little man.  I have my orders, but we of the
special services are encouraged to think for ourselves.  The
Professor is at this moment in conference with the Praefectus, and
cannot be interrupted.  But I will myself take you to headquarters,
and when he is finished I will present you.  Let us hurry, for we
are about to march."

He stood on the footboard of the car, and directed Newsom along a
very bumpy track, which skirted the horse-lines, and led to the
courtyard of the hunting-lodge.  Here was a scene of extreme
busyness.  Greenshirts with every variety of rank-badges were going
in and out of the building, a wagon was being loaded with kit, and
before what seemed to be the main entrance an orderly was leading
up and down a good-looking chestnut mare.  Out of this door merged
the burly figure of a man, with a black beard and spectacles, who
was dressed rather absurdly in khaki shorts and a green shirt, the
open neck of which displayed a hairy chest.

"The Professor," said the medical officer.  He saluted.  "Here is
an Englishman, sir, who says he knows you and has an urgent
message."

"I have no time for Englishmen," said Jagon crossly.  His morning
conference seemed to have perturbed him.

"But you will have time for me," said Jaikie.  "You remember me,
sir?"

The spectacled eyes regarded Jaikie sourly.  "I do not."

"I think you do.  Two years ago I came to breakfast with you at
Knockraw in Scotland.  I helped you then, and I can help you now."

"Tchut!  That is a long-closed chapter."  But the man's face was no
longer hostile.  He honoured Jaikie with a searching stare.  "You
are that little Scotsman.  I recall you.  But if you come from my
companions of that time it is useless.  I have broken with them."

"I don't come from them.  I come from the man you beat two years
ago--I escaped from him twelve hours ago.  I want to help you to
beat him again."

Jagon looked at the medical officer and the medical officer looked
at Jagon.  The lips of both seemed to shape, but not to utter, the
same word.  "I think the Englishman is honest, sir," said the
officer.

"What do you want?"  Jagon turned to Jaikie.

"Five minutes' private talk with you."

"Come in here.  Keep an eye on that chauffeur"--this to the
officer.  "We know nothing about him."

"I'm an Englishman, too," said Newsom, touching his cap.

"What the devil has mobilised the British Empire this morning?"
Jagon led Jaikie into a little stone hall hung with sporting
trophies and then into a cubby-hole where an orderly was packing up
papers.  He dismissed the latter, and shut the door.

"Now let's have your errand.  And be short, for we move in fifteen
minutes."

Jaikie felt no nervousness with this hustled professor.  In half a
dozen sentences he explained how he had got mixed up in Evallonia's
business, but he did not mention Prince Odalchini, though he made
much of Ashie.  "I want to see the Countess Araminta.  And you, who
know something about me, must arrange it."

"You can't.  The Praefectus sees no strangers."

"I must.  If I don't she'll make a godless mess of the whole
business."

"You would tell her that?" said Jagon grimly.  "The Praefectus is
not so busy that she cannot find time to punish insolence."

"It isn't insolence--it's a fact.  I didn't talk nonsense to you at
Knockraw, and it was because you believed me that things went
right.  You must believe me now.  For Heaven's sake take me to the
Countess and let's waste no more time."

"You are a bold youth," said the Professor.  "Bold with the valour
of ignorance.  But the Praefectus will see no one.  Perhaps this
evening when we have entered Krovolin--"

"That will be too late.  It must be now."

"It cannot be.  I have my orders.  The Praefectus is not one to be
disobeyed."  The eyes behind the spectacles were troubled, and the
black beard did not hide the twitching of the lips.  He reminded
Jaikie of a don of his acquaintance in whom a bonfire in the quad
induced a nervous crisis.  His heart sank, for he knew the
stubbornness of the weak.

"Then I am going direct to the Countess."

A clear voice rang outside in the hall, an imperative voice, and a
woman's.  Jaikie's mind was suddenly made up.  Before Jagon could
prevent him, he was through the door.  At the foot of the stairs
were two Greenshirts at attention, and on the last step stood a
tall girl.

Indignation with the Professor and a growing desperation had
banished Jaikie's uneasiness.  He saluted in the Greenshirt fashion
and looked her boldly in the face.  His first thought was that she
was extraordinarily pretty.  What had Alison meant by drawing the
picture of a harpy?  She was dressed like Ashie in green riding
breeches and a green tunic, and the only sign of the Blood-red Rook
was her scarlet collar and the scarlet brassard on her right arm.
Her colouring was a delicate amber, her eyes were like pools in a
peaty stream, and her green forester's hat did not conceal her
wonderful dead-black hair.  Her poise was the most arrogant that he
had ever seen, for she held her little head so high that the world
seemed at an infinite distance beneath her.  As her eyes fell on
him they changed from liquid topaz to a hard agate.

She spoke a sharp imperious word and her voice had the chill of
water on a frosty morning.

Audacity was his only hope.

"Madam," said Jaikie.  "I have forced myself upon you.  I am an
Englishman, and I believe that you have English blood.  I implore
your help, and I think that in turn I can be of use to you."

She looked over his head, at the trembling Jagon and the stupefied
Greenshirts.  She seemed to be asking who had dared to disobey her.

"I take all the blame on myself," said Jaikie, trying to keep his
voice level.  "I have broken your orders.  Punish me if you like,
but listen to me first.  You are leading a revolution, and in a
revolution breaches of etiquette are forgiven."

At last she condescended to lower her eyes to him.  Something in
his face or his figure seemed to rouse a flicker of interest.

"Who is this cock-sparrow?" she asked, and looked at Jagon.

"Madam," came the trembling answer, "he is a Scotsman who once in
Scotland did me a service.  He is without manners, but I believe he
means honestly."

"I see.  A revenant from your faulty past.  But this is no time for
repaying favours.  You will take charge of him, Professor, and be
responsible for him till my further orders."  And she passed
between the sentries towards the door.

Jaikie managed to plant himself in her way.  He played his last
card.

"You must listen to me.  Please!"  He held out his hand.

It was his face that did it.  There was something about Jaikie's
small, wedge-shaped countenance, its air of innocence with just a
hint of devilry flickering in the background, its extreme and
rather forlorn youth, which most people found hard to resist.  The
Countess Araminta looked at him and her eyes softened ever so
little.  She looked at the outstretched hand in which lay a ring.
It was a kind of ring she had seen before, and the momentary
softness left her face.

"Where did you get that?" she demanded in a voice in which
imperiousness could not altogether conceal excitement.

"It was given me to show to you as a proof of my good faith."

She said something in Evallonian to the guards and the Professor,
and marched into the cubby-hole which Jaikie had lately left.
"Follow," said the Professor hoarsely.  "The Praefectus will see
you--but only for one minute."

Jaikie found himself in a space perhaps six yards square,
confronting the formidable personage the thought of whom had
hitherto made his spine cold.  Rather to his surprise he felt more
at his ease.  He found that he could look at her steadily, and what
he saw in her face made him suddenly change all his prearranged
tactics.  She was a young woman, but she was not in the least a
young woman like Alison or Janet Roylance.  He was no judge of
femininity, but there was not much femininity here as he understood
it. . . .  But there was something else which he did understand.
Her eyes, the way she held her head, the tones of her voice had
just that slightly insecure arrogance, that sullen but puzzled
self-confidence, which belonged to a certain kind of public-school
boy.  He had studied the type, for it was not his own, and he had
had a good deal to do with the handling of it.  One had to be
cautious with it, for it was easy to rouse obstinate, half-
comprehended scruples, but it was sound stuff if you managed it
wisely.  His plan had been to propose a bargain with one whom he
believed to be the slave of picturesque ambitions.  In a flash he
realised that he had been mistaken.  If he suggested a deal it
would be taken as insolence, and he would find himself pitched
neck-and-crop into the yard.  He must try other methods.

"Countess," he said humbly, "I have come to you with a desperate
appeal.  You alone can help me."

He was scrupulously candid.  He told how he had come to Evallonia,
of his meeting with Ashie, of his visit to Prince Odalchini.  He
told how he had brought Alison and the Roylances to the House of
the Four Winds.  "It was none of my business," he admitted.  "I was
an interfering fool, but I thought it was going to be fun, and now
it's liker tragedy."

"The Roylances," she repeated.  "They were at Geneva.  I saw them
there.  The man is the ordinary English squire, and the woman is
pleasant.  Miss Westwater too I know--I have met her in England.
Pretty and blonde--rather fluffy."

"Not fluffy," said Jaikie hotly.

She almost smiled.

"Perhaps not fluffy.  Go on."

He told of Mastrovin, sketching hurriedly his doings in the Canonry
two years before.  He described the meeting in the Forest of St
Sylvester, when he himself had been on the way to the Countess with
letters from Ashie.  "I can't give you them," he said, "for the
rain pulped them."  He described the house in the Street of the
White Peacock and he did not mince his words.  But he skated
lightly over his escape, for he felt that it would be bad tactics
to bring Randal Glynde into the story at that stage.

There could be no question of her interest.  At the mention of
Mastrovin her delicate brows descended and she cross-examined him
sharply.  The Street of the White Peacock, where was it?  Who was
with Mastrovin?  She frowned at the name of Dedekind.  Then her
face set.

"That rabble is caught," she said.  "Trapped.  To-night it will be
in my hands."

"But the rabble is desperate.  You have an army, Countess, and you
can surround it, but it will die fighting with teeth and claws.
And if it perishes my friends will perish with it."

"That I cannot help.  If fools rush in where they are not wanted
they must take the consequences."

"You don't wish to begin with a tragedy.  You have the chance of a
bloodless revolution which for its decency will be unlike all other
revolutions.  You mustn't spoil it.  If it starts off with the
murder of three English its reputation will be tarnished."

"The murders will have been done by our enemies, and we shall
avenge them."

"Of course.  But still you will have taken the gloss off Juventus
in the eyes of England--and of Europe."

"We care nothing for foreign opinion."

Jaikie looked her boldly in the eyes.

"But you do.  You must.  You are responsible people, who don't want
merely to upset a Government, but to establish a new and better
one.  Public opinion outside Evallonia will mean a lot to you."

Her face had again its arrogance.

"That is dictation," she said, "and who are you to dictate?"

"I am nobody, but I must plead for my friends.  And I am hot on
your side.  I want you to begin your crusade with an act of
chivalry."

"You would show me how to behave?"

"Not I.  I want you to show me and the world how to behave, and
prove that Juventus stands for great things.  You are strong enough
to be merciful."

He had touched the right note, for her sternness patently unbent.

"What do you want me to do?"  Her tone was almost as if she spoke
to an equal.

"I want you to halt where you are.  I want you to let me have half
a dozen of your best men to help me to get my friends out of
Mastrovin's hands.  If we fail, then that's that.  If we succeed,
then you occupy Krovolin and do what you like with Mastrovin.
After that you march on Melina with a good conscience and God
prosper you!"

She looked at him fixedly and her mouth drew into a slow smile.

"You are a very bold young man.  Are you perhaps in love with Miss
Westwater?"

"I am," said Jaikie, "but that has nothing to do with the point.  I
brought her to this country, and I can't let her down.  You know
you could never do that yourself."

Her smile broadened.

"I am to stop short in a great work of liberation to rescue the
lady-love of a preposterous Englishman."

"Yes," said Jaikie, "because you know that you would be miserable
if you didn't."

"You think you can bring it off?"

"Only with your help."

"I am to put my men under your direction?"

"We'll make a plan together.  I'll follow any leader."

"If I consent, you shall lead.  If I am to trust you in one thing I
must trust you in all."

Jaikie bowed.  "I am at your orders," he said.

She continued to regard him curiously.

"Miss Westwater is noble," she said.  "Are you?"

Jaikie puzzled at the word.  Then he understood.

"No, I'm nobody, as I told you.  But we don't bother about these
things so much in England."

"I see.  The Princess and the goose-boy.  I do not quarrel with you
for that.  You are like our Juventus, the pioneer of a new world."

Jaikie knew that he had won, for the agate gleam had gone out of
her eyes.  He had something more to say and he picked his words,
for he realised that he was dealing with a potential volcano.

"You march on Melina," he said, "you and the other wings of
Juventus.  But when you march you must have your leader."

Her eyes hardened.  "What do you know of that?" she snapped.

"I have seen the newspapers and I have heard people talking."
Jaikie walked with desperate circumspection.  "The Republic has
fallen.  The Monarchists with their old man cannot last long.
Juventus must restore the ancient ways, but with youth to lead."

"You mean?"  Her eyes were stony.

"I mean Prince John," he blurted out, with his heart sinking.  She
was once more the Valkyrie, poised like a falcon for a swoop.  He
saw the appropriateness of Alison's name for her.

"You mean Prince John?" she repeated, and her tone was polar ice.

"You know you can't put a king on the throne unless you have got
him with you.  Juventus is wild for Prince John, but nobody knows
where he is.  I know.  I promise to hand him over to you safe and
sound."

There were many things in her face--interest, excitement, relief,
but there was also a rising anger.

"You would make a bargain with me?" she cried.  "A huckster's
bargain--with ME!"

Strangely enough, the surprise and fury in her voice made Jaikie
cool.  He knew this kind of tantrum, but not in the Countess's sex.

"You mustn't talk nonsense, please," he said.  "I wouldn't dare to
make a bargain with you.  I appealed to you, and out of your
chivalry you are going to do what I ask.  I only offer to show my
gratitude by doing what I can for you.  Besides, as I told you, I'm
on your side.  I mean what I say.  You can go back on me and refuse
what I ask, and I'll still put you in the way of getting hold of
Prince John, if you'll give me a couple of days.  I can't say
fairer than that.  A mouse may help a lion."

For a second or two she said nothing.  Then her eyes fell.

"You are the first man," she said, "who has dared to tell me that I
was a fool."

"I didn't," Jaikie protested, with a comfortable sense that things
were going better.

"You did, and I respect you for it.  I see that there was no
insult.  What I do for you--if I do it--I do because I am a
Christian and a good citizen. . . .  For the other thing, what
proof have you that you can keep your word?"

Jaikie held out the ring.  The Countess took it, studied the
carving on the carnelian, and returned it.  She was smiling.

"It is a token and no more.  If you fail--"

"Oh, have me flayed and boiled in oil," he said cheerfully.
"Anything you like as long as you get busy about Mastrovin."

She blew a silver whistle, and spoke a word to the orderly who
entered.  Then Jagon appeared, and to him she gave what sounded
like a string of orders, which she enumerated on her slim gloved
fingers.  When he had gone she turned to Jaikie.

"I have countermanded the march for to-day.  Now we go to choose
your forlorn hope.  You will lunch with me, for I have some things
to say to you and many to ask you.  What is your name, for I know
nothing of you except that you are in love with Miss Westwater and
are a friend of my cousin Paul?"

"Galt," she repeated.  "It is not dignified, but it smells of the
honest earth.  You will wait here, Galt, till I send for you."

Jaikie, left alone, mopped his brow, and, there being no chairs in
the place, sat down on the floor, for he felt exhausted.  He was
not accustomed to this kind of thing.

"Public-school," he reflected.  "Best six-cylinder model.  Lord,
how I love the product and dislike the type!  But fortunately the
type is pretty rare."



XII

THE STREET OF THE WHITE PEACOCK


Jaikie rubbed the dust from his eyes, for he had landed in a heap
of debris, and looked round for Newsom.  Newsom was at his elbow,
having exhibited an unexpected agility.  He was still a little
puzzled to learn how Newsom came to be with him.  After his
business with the Countess he had found him waiting with the car,
stubbornly refusing to move till he had the word from his master.
He had despatched him with a message to Randal Glynde and the man
had returned unbidden.  "Boss's orders," he had explained.  "The
boss says I'm to stick to you, sir, till he tells me to quit."  And
when in the evening the expeditionary force left the camp Newsom
had begged for a place in it, had indeed insisted on being with
Jaikie in whatever part the latter was cast for.  It was not
"boss's orders" this time, but the plea of a sportsman to have a
hand in the game, and Jaikie, looking at the man's athletic figure
and remembering that he was English, had a little doubtfully
consented.  Now he was more comfortable about that consent.  At any
rate Newsom was an adept at climbing walls.

The Countess had allowed him to pick six Greenshirts, herself
showing a most eager interest in their selection.  They were all
young townsmen, for this was not a job for the woodlander or
mountaineer, and four of them could speak English.  All were
equipped with pistols, electric torches, and the string-soled shoes
of the country.  As reserves he had twenty of a different type, men
picked for their physique and fighting value.  He thought of them
as respectively his scouts and his shock-troops.  He had made his
dispositions pretty much in the void, but he reasoned that he
wanted light men for his first reconnaissance, and something
heavier if it came to a scrap.  His judgment had been sound, for
when in the evening the party, by devious ways and in small groups,
concentrated at the Cirque Doré encampment, he found that Randal
Glynde had had the same notion.

Randal, having had the house in the Street of the White Peacock for
some time under observation, and knowing a good deal about its
antecedents, had come to certain conclusions.  The place was large
and rambling, and probably contained cellars extending to the
river, for in old days it had been the dwelling of a great merchant
of Krovolin.  There was no entrance from the street, the old
doorway having been built up, and coming and going was all by the
courtyard at the back.  The prisoners might be anywhere inside a
thousand square yards of masonry, but the odds were that they were
lodged, as Jaikie had been, in rooms facing the street.  The first
thing was to get rid of the watchers there, and this was the
immediate task of the six Greenshirts.  But it must be done quickly
and circumspectly so as not to alarm the inmates.  There were five
watchers by day and three by night, the latter taking up duty at
sundown.  If a part of the Cirque passed through the street in the
first hours of the dark, it would provide excellent cover for
scragging the three guards, and unobtrusively packing them into one
of the vans.  The street must be in their hands, for it was by the
street-front that escape must be made.  Randal, who had become a
very grave person, was insistent upon the need for speed and for
keeping the business with his watchers secret from Mastrovin.
Mastrovin must not be alarmed, for, like Jaikie, he feared that, if
he were cornered too soon, he would have recourse to some desperate
brutality.

It was Jaikie's business to get inside the house, and the only way
was by the courtyard at the back.  Randal had had this carefully
reconnoitred, and his report was that, while the gate was kept
locked and guarded, the wall could be climbed by an active man.  It
was impossible to do more than make a rudimentary plan, which was
briefly this.  Jaikie was to get into the courtyard, using any
method he pleased, and to overpower, gag, and bind the guard.
Randal had ascertained that there was never more than a single
guard.  For this purpose he must have a companion, since his
fighting weight was small.  His hour of entrance must be 10 p.m.,
at which time the Six were to deal with the watchmen in the street.
Their success was to be notified to Jaikie by Luigi's playing of
Dvorak's Humoresque on his fiddle, which in that still quarter at
that hour of night would carry far.

Then there was to be an allowance of one hour while the Six kept
watch in the street, and Jaikie, having entered the house,
discovered where the prisoners were kept.  After that came the
point of uncertainty.  It might be possible to get the prisoners
off as inconspicuously as Jaikie himself had made his departure.
On the other hand, it might not, and force might have to be used
against desperate men.  At all costs the crisis, if it came, was to
be postponed till eleven o'clock, at which time the reserves, the
Twenty, would arrive in the courtyard.  It was assumed that Jaikie
would have got the gates open so that they could enter.  He must
also have opened the house door.  Two blasts on his whistle would
bring the rescuers inside the house, and then God prosper the
right!

That last sentence had been the parting words of Randal, who had no
part allotted him, being, as he said, an ageing man and no fighter.
Jaikie remembered them as he crouched in the dust of the courtyard
and peered into the gloom.  So far his job had been simple.  A way
up the wall had been found in a corner where an adjacent building
slightly abutted and the stones were loose or broken.  He had lain
on the top and examined the courtyard in the dying light, and he
had listened intently, but there had been no sight or sound of the
watchman.  Then, followed by Newsom, he had dropped on to soft
rubble, and lain still and listened, but there was no evidence of
human presence.  The place was empty.  Satisfied about this, he had
examined the gate.  He had been given some elementary instruction
in lock-picking that evening at the Cirque, and had brought with
him the necessary tools.  But to his surprise they were not needed.
The gate was open.

A brief reconnaissance showed him that the courtyard was different
from what it had been on his arrival two days ago.  The medley of
motorcars had gone.  The place was bare, except for the heaps of
stone and lime in the corner where someone seemed to have been
excavating . . . Jaikie did his best to think.  What was the
meaning of the unlocked gate?  Someone must be coming there that
night and coming in a hurry.  Or someone must be leaving in a
hurry.  Why had Mastrovin suddenly opened his defences?  The horrid
thought came to him that Mastrovin might be gone, and have taken
Alison and the others with him.  Was he too late?  The mass of the
house rose like a cliff, and in that yard he seemed to be in a
suffocating cave.  Far above him he saw dimly clouds chasing each
other in the heavens, but there was no movement of air where he
sat.  The place was so silent and lifeless that his heart sank.
Childe Roland had come to the Dark Tower, but the Dark Tower was
empty.

And then he saw far up on its façade a light prick out.  His
momentary despair was changed to a furious anxiety.  There was life
in the place, and he felt that the life was evil and menacing.  The
great blank shell held a brood of cockatrices, and among them was
what he loved best in the world.  Hitherto the necessity for
difficult action had kept his mind from brooding too much on awful
presentiments.  He had had to take one step at a time and keep his
thoughts on the leash.  There had been moments when his former
insouciance had returned to him and he had thought only of the game
and not of the consequences. . . .  Indeed, in the early evening,
as he approached Krovolin, he had had one instant of the old
thrill.  Far over the great plain of the Rave, from the direction
of the capital, had come the sound of distant music and dancing
bells.  He had known what that meant.  Mr Dickson McCunn was
entering his loyal city of Melina.

But now he knew only consuming anxiety and something not far from
terror.  He must get inside the house at once and find Alison.  If
she had gone, he must follow.  He had a horrid certainty that she
was in extreme peril, and that he alone was to blame for it. . . .
He got to his feet and was about to attempt the door, when
something halted him.

It was the sound of a fiddle, blanketed by the great house, but
dropping faint liquid notes in the still air.  It held him like a
spell, for it seemed a message of hope and comfort.  One part of
the adventure at any rate had succeeded, and the Six were in
occupation of the Street of the White Peacock.  It did more, for it
linked up this dark world with the light and with his friends.  He
listened, he could not choose but listen, till the music died away.

It was well that he did so, for Newsom's hand pulled him down
again.  "There's someone at the gate," he whispered.  The two
crouched deeper into the shadows.

The gate was pushed open, and a man entered the courtyard.  He had
an electric torch which he flashed for a moment, but rather as if
he wanted to see that the torch was in working order than to
examine the place.  That flash was enough to reveal the burly form
of Mastrovin.  He shut the gate behind him, but he did not lock it.
Evidently he expected someone else to follow him.  Then he walked
straight to the excavation, and, after moving some boards aside, he
disappeared into it.

The sight of Mastrovin switched Jaikie from despondency into
vigorous action.  "After him," he whispered to Newsom.  Clambering
over the rubble they looked down a steep inclined passage, where a
man might walk if he crouched, and saw ahead of them the light of
Mastrovin's torch.  It vanished as he turned a corner.

The two followed at once, Newsom hitting his head hard on the roof.
Jaikie did not dare to use his own torch, but felt his way by the
wall, till he came to a passage debouching to the right.  That was
the way Mastrovin had gone, but there was no sign of his light.
Jaikie felt that he could safely look about him.

They were in a circular space whence several passages radiated.
That by which they had come was new work, with the marks of pick
and shovel still on it.  But the other passages were of ancient
brick, with stone roofs which might have been new two centuries
ago.  Yet in all of them was the mark of recent labour, a couple of
picks propped up against a wall, and spilt lime and rubble on the
floor.  Jaikie deduced that the passage from the upper air was not
the only task that Mastrovin's men had been engaged in; they had
been excavating also at the far ends of some of the other passages.

He did not stop, for their quarry must not be lost track of.  He
turned up the alley Mastrovin had taken, feeling his way by the
wall.

"There's wiring here," he whispered to Newsom.

"I spotted that," was the answer.  "Someone's up to no good."

Presently they reached a dead end, and Jaikie thought it safe to
use his torch.  This revealed a steep flight of steps on the left.
It was a spiral staircase, for after two turnings they had a
glimpse of light above them.  Mastrovin was very near.  Moreover,
he was speaking to someone.  The voice was quite distinct, for the
funnel of the staircase magnified it, but the words were
Evallonian, which Jaikie did not understand.

But Newsom did.  He clutched Jaikie's arm, and with every sentence
of Mastrovin's that clutch tightened.  Then some command seemed to
be issued above, and they heard the reply of Mastrovin's
interlocutor.  The light wavered and moved, and presently
disappeared, for Mastrovin had gone on.  But there came the sound
of feet on the stairs growing louder.  The other man was
descending--in the dark.

It was a tense moment in Jaikie's life.  He took desperate hold of
his wits, and reasoned swiftly that the man descending in the dark
would almost certainly hug the outer wall, the right-hand wall of
the spiral, where the steps were broader.  Therefore he and Newsom
must plaster themselves against the other wall.  The staircase was
wide enough to let two men pass abreast without touching.  If they
were detected he would go for the stranger's throat, and he thought
he could trust Newsom to do the same.

The two held their breath while the man came down the stairs.
Jaikie, sensitive as a wild animal, realised that his guess had
been right--the man was feeling his way by the outer wall.
Newsom's shoulder was touching his, and he felt it shiver.  Another
thing he realised--the stranger was in a hurry.  That was to the
good, for he would not be so likely to get any subconscious warning
of their presence.

For one second the man was abreast of them.  There was a waft of
some coarse scent, as if he were a vulgar dandy.  Then he was past
them, and they heard him at the foot of the stairs groping for the
passage.

Jaikie sat down on a step to let his stifled breath grow normal.
But Newsom was whispering something in his ear.

"I heard their talk," he gasped.  "I've got their plan. . . .  They
are going to let the Countess occupy the town. . . .  She must
cross the river to get to Melina. . . .  They've got the bridge
mined, and will blow it up at the right moment . . . and half the
place besides. . . .  God, what swine!"

To Jaikie the news was a relief.  That could only be for the
morrow, and in the meantime Mastrovin would lie quiet.  That meant
that his prisoners would be in the house.  The cockatrices--and the
others--were still in their den.

But Newsom had more to say.

"There are people coming here--more people.  That fellow has gone
to fetch them."

Jaikie, squatted in the darkness, hammered at his wits, but they
would not respond.  What could these newcomers mean?  What was
there to do in the house that had not been done?  Mastrovin had the
bridge mined, and half the town as well, and could make havoc by
pressing a button.  He had his cellars wired, and new passages dug.
All that was clear enough.  But why was he assembling a posse to-
night? . . .

Then an idea struck him.  If the gates were open to let people in,
they were open to let the same people out.  And they might take
others with them. . . .  He had it.  The prisoners were to be
removed that night, and used in Mastrovin's further plans.  When he
had struck his blow at Juventus they might come in handy as
hostages.  Or in the last resort as victims.

From the moment that he realised this possibility came a radical
change in Jaikie's outlook.  The torments of anxious love were
still deep in his soul, but overlying them was a solid crust of
hate.  His slow temper was being kindled into a white flame of
anger.

He looked at his watch.  It was one minute after half-past ten.
The Twenty would not arrive till eleven.

"I must go on," he whispered.  "I must find what that brute is
after and where he keeps my friends. . . .  You must go back and
wait in the yard.  Please Heaven our fellows are here before the
others.  If they are, bring them up here--I'll find some way of
joining up with you. . . .  If the others come first, God help us
all.  I leave it to you."

As he spoke he realised sharply the futility of asking a cockney
chauffeur to hold at bay an unknown number of the toughest
miscreants in Evallonia.  But Newsom seemed to take it calmly.  His
voice was steady.

"I'll do my best, sir," he said.  "I'm armed, and I used to be a
fair shot.  Have you a pair of clippers in that packet of tools you
brought?"

Jaikie dived into his pocket and handed over the desired article.

"Good," said Newsom.  "I think I'll do a spot of wire-cutting."
And without another word he began to feel his way down.

Jaikie crept upward till the stairs ended in a door.  This was
unlocked, as he had expected, for Mastrovin was leaving his
communications open behind him.  Inside all was black, so he
cautiously flashed his torch.  The place was dusty and unclean, a
passage with rotting boards on the floor and discoloured paper
dropping from the walls.  He tiptoed along it till it gave on to a
small landing from which another staircase descended.  Here there
were two doors and he cautiously tried the handles.  One was
locked, but the other opened.  It was dark inside, but at the far
end there was a thin crack of light on the floor.  There must be a
room there which at any rate was inhabited.

The first thing he did, for he had put out his torch, was to fall
with a great clatter over some obstacle.  He lay still with his
heart in his mouth, waiting for the far door to be thrown open.
But nothing happened, so he carefully picked himself up and
continued with extreme circumspection.  There were chairs and
tables in this place, a ridiculous number of chairs, as if it had
been used as a depository for lumber, or perhaps as a council-
chamber.  He had no further mishap, and reached the streak of light
safely. . . .  There were people in that farther room; he could
hear a voice speaking, and it sounded like Mastrovin's.

Another thing he noticed, and that was the same odd smell of coarse
scent which he had sniffed as the man passed him on the stairs.
The odour was like a third-rate barber's shop, and it came through
the door.

He could hear Mastrovin talking, rather loud and very distinct,
like a schoolmaster to stupid pupils.  He was speaking English too.

"You are going away," he was saying.  "Do you understand?  I will
soon visit you--perhaps in a day or two.  I do not think you will
try to escape, but if you do, I warn you that I have a long arm and
will pluck you back.  And I will punish you for it."

The voice was slow and patient as if addressed to backward
children.  And there was no answer.  Mastrovin must be speaking to
his prisoners, but they did not reply, and that was so unlike Sir
Archie that a sudden horrid fear shot into Jaikie's mind.  Were
they dying, or sick or wounded?  Was Alison? . . .

He waited no longer.  Had the door been triple-barred he felt that
he had the strength to break it down.  But it opened easily.

He found himself in a small, square, and very high room, wholly
without windows, for the air entered by a grating near the ceiling.
It smelt stuffy and heavily scented.  Mastrovin sat in an armchair,
with behind him a queer-looking board studded with numbered
buttons.  There was a clock fixed on the wall above it which had a
loud solemn tick.

The three prisoners sat behind a little table.  Archie looked as if
he had been in the wars, for he had one arm in a sling, and there
was a bloodstained bandage round his head.  He sat stiffly upright,
staring straight in front of him.  So did Janet, a pale unfamiliar
Janet, with her hair in disorder and a long rent in one sleeve.
Like her husband, she was looking at Mastrovin with blank unseeing
eyes.  Alison sat a little apart with her arms on the table and her
head on her arms.  He saw only her mop of gold hair.  She seemed to
be asleep.

All that Jaikie took in at his first glance was the three
prisoners.  What devilry had befallen them?  He had it.  They had
been drugged.  They were now blind and apathetic, mindless perhaps,
baggage which Mastrovin could cart about as he chose.  There had
evidently been a row, and Archie had suffered in it, but now he was
out of action.  It was the sight of Alison's drooped head that made
him desperate, and also perfectly cool.  He had not much hope, but
at any rate he was with his friends again.

This reconnaissance took a fraction of a second.  He heard
Mastrovin bark, "Hands up!" and up shot his arms.

There were two others in the room, Dedekind with his red pointed
beard, and a sallow squat man, whom he remembered in the Canonry.
What was his name?  Rosenbaum?

It was the last who searched him, plucking the pistol from his
breeches pocket.  Jaikie did not mind that, for he had never been
much good with a gun.  For the first time he saw the clock on the
wall, and noted that it stood at a quarter to eleven.  If he could
spin out that quarter of an hour there was just the faintest
chance, always provided that Mastrovin's reinforcements did not
arrive too soon.

"I have come back," he said sweetly.  "I really had to get some
decent clothes, for I was in rags."

"You have come back," Mastrovin repeated.  "Why?"

"Because I liked your face, Mr Mastrovin.  I have the pleasantest
recollection of you, you know, ever since we met two years ago at
Portaway.  Do you remember the Hydropathic there and the little
Glasgow journalist that you cross-examined?  Drunken little beast
he was, and you tried to make him drunker.  Have you been up to the
same game with my friends?"

He glanced at Archie, trying to avoid the sight of Alison's bowed
head.  To his surprise he seemed to detect a slight droop of that
gentleman's left eye.  Was it possible that the doping had failed,
and that the victims were only shamming? . . .  The clock was at
thirteen minutes to eleven.

Mastrovin was looking at him fixedly, as if he were busy
reconstructing the past to which he had alluded.

"So," he said.  "I have more against you than I imagined."

"You have nothing against me," said Jaikie briskly.  "I might say I
had a lot against you--kidnapping, imprisonment, no food or drink,
filthy lodgings, and so forth.  But I'm not complaining.  I forgive
you for the sake of your face.  You wanted me to tell you
something, but I couldn't, for I didn't know.  Well, I know now,
and I've come back to do you a good turn.  You would like to know
where Prince John is.  I can tell you."

Jaikie stopped.  His business was to spin out this dialogue.

"Go on," said Mastrovin grimly.  He was clearly in two minds
whether or not this youth was mad.

"He is with the Countess Troyos.  I know, for I saw him there this
morning."

"That is a lie."

"All right.  Have it your own way.  But when you blow up the bridge
here to-morrow you had better find out whether I am speaking the
truth, unless you want to kill the Prince.  Perhaps you do.
Perhaps you'd like to add him to the bag.  It's all the same to me,
only I thought I'd warn you."

He was allowed to finish this audacious speech, because Mastrovin
was for once in his masterful life fairly stupefied.  Jaikie's
purpose was to anger him so that he might lay violent hands on him.
He thought that, unless they took to shooting, he could give them a
proof of the eel-like agility of the Gorbals Die-hards, not to
speak of the most famous three-quarter back in Britain.  He did not
think they would shoot him, for they were sure to want to discover
where he had got his knowledge.

He certainly succeeded in his purpose.  Mastrovin's face flushed to
an ugly purple, and both Dedekind and Rosenbaum grew a little
paler.  The last-named said something in Evallonian, and the three
talked excitedly in that language.  This was precisely what Jaikie
wanted.  He observed that the clock was now at eight minutes to the
hour.  He also noted that Alison, though her head was still on the
table, was looking sideways at him through her fingers, and that
her eyes had an alertness unusual in the doped.

Suddenly he heard a shot, muffled as if very far off.  This room
was in the heart of the house, and noises from the outer world
would come faintly to it, if at all.  But he had quick ears, and he
knew that he could not be mistaken.  Was the faithful Newsom
holding the bridge alone like Horatius?  He could not hold it long,
and there were still five deadly minutes to go before the Twenty
could be looked for. . . .

Yet it would take more than five minutes to get the prisoners out
of the house and the gate.  That danger at any rate had gone.  What
remained was the same peril which had brooded over the library at
Castle Gay, before Dickson McCunn like a north wind had dispersed
it.  These wild beasts of the jungle, if cornered, might make a
great destruction.  Here in this place they were all on the thin
crust of a volcano.  He did not like that board with studs and
numbers behind Mastrovin's head.

Again came the faint echo of shots.  This time Mastrovin heard it.
He said something to Dedekind, who hurried from the room.
Rosenbaum would have followed, but a word detained him.  Mastrovin
sat crouching like an angry lion, waiting to spring, but not yet
quite certain of his quarry.

"Stand still," he told Jaikie, who had edged nearer Alison.  "If
you move I will kill you.  In a moment my friend will return, and
then you will go--ah, where will you go?"

He sucked his lips, and grinned like a great cat.

There were no more shots, and silence fell on the place, broken
only by the ticking of the clock.  Jaikie did not dare to look at
the prisoners, for the slightest movement on his part might release
the fury of the wild beast in front of him.  He kept his eyes on
that face which had now become gnarled like a knot in an oak stump,
an intense concentration of anxiety, fury and animal power.  It
fascinated Jaikie, but it did not terrify him, for it was like a
monstrous gargoyle, an expression of some ancient lust which was
long dead.  He had the impression that the man was somehow dead and
awaited burial, and might therefore be disregarded. . . .

He strove to stir his inertia to life, but he seemed to have become
boneless.  "It's you that will be dead in a minute or two," he told
himself, but apathetically, as if he were merely correcting a
misstatement.  Anger had gone out of him, and had taken fear with
it, and only apathy remained.  He felt Mastrovin's eyes beginning
to dominate and steal his senses like an anæsthetic.  That scared
him, and he shifted his gaze to the board on the wall, and the
clock.  The clock was at three minutes after eleven, but he had
forgotten his former feverish calculation of time.

The door opened.  Out of a corner of his eye he saw that Dedekind
had returned.  He noted his red beard.

Jaikie was pulled out of his languor by the behaviour of Mastrovin,
who from a lion couchant became a lion rampant.  He could not have
believed that a heavy man well on in years could show such
nimbleness.  Mastrovin was on his feet, shouting something to
Rosenbaum, and pointing at the newcomer the pistol with which he
had threatened Jaikie.

The voice that spoke from the door was not Dedekind's.

"Suppose we lower our guns, Mr Mastrovin?" it said.  "You might
kill me--but I think you know that I can certainly kill you.  Is it
a bargain?"

The voice was pleasant and low with a touch of drawl in it.
Jaikie, in a wild whirling survey of the room, saw that it had
fetched Alison's head off her hands.  It woke Janet and Archie,
too, out of their doll-like stare.  It seemed to cut into the
stuffiness like a frosty wind, and it left Jaikie in deep
bewilderment, but--for the first time that night--with a lively
hope.

Mr Glynde sniffed the air.

"At the old dodge, I see," he said.  "You once tried it on me, you
remember.  You seem to have struck rather tough subjects this
time."  He nodded to the Roylances and smiled on Alison.

"What do you want?"  The words seemed to be squeezed out of
Mastrovin, and came thick and husky.

"A deal," said Randal cheerfully.  "The game is against you this
time.  We've got your little lot trussed up below--also my old
friend, Mr Dedekind."

"That is a lie."

Randal shrugged his shoulders.

"You are a monotonous controversialist.  I assure you it is true.
There was a bit of a tussle at first before our people arrived, and
I'm afraid two of yours were killed.  Then the rest surrendered to
superior numbers.  All is now quiet on that front."

"If I believe you, what is your deal?"

"Most generous.  That you should get yourself out of here in ten
minutes and out of the country in ten hours.  We will look after
your transport.  The fact is, Mr Mastrovin, we don't want you--
Evallonia doesn't want you--nobody wants you.  You and your bravos
are back numbers.  Properly speaking, we should string you up, but
we don't wish to spoil a good show with ugly episodes."

Randal spoke lightly, so that there was no melodrama in his words,
only a plain and rather casual statement of fact.  But in that
place such lightness was the cruellest satire.  And it was belied
by Randal's eyes, which were as sharp as a hawk's.  They never left
Mastrovin's pistol hand and the studded board behind his head.

Mastrovin's face was a mask, but his eyes too were wary.  He seemed
about to speak, but what he meant to say will never be known.  For
suddenly many things happened at once.

There was the sound of a high imperious voice at the door.  It
opened and the Countess Araminta entered, and close behind her a
wild figure of a man, dusty, bleeding, with a coat nearly ripped
from his back.

The sight of the Countess stung Mastrovin into furious life.  A
sense of death and fatality filled the room like a fog.  Jaikie
sprang to get in front of Alison, and Archie with his unwounded arm
thrust Janet behind him.  In that breathless second Jaikie was
conscious only of two things.  Mastrovin had fired, and then swung
round to the numbered board; but, even as his finger reached it he
clutched at the air and fell backward over the arm of his chair.
There was a sudden silence, and a click came from the board as if a
small clock were running down.

Then Jaikie's eyes cleared.  He saw a pallid Rosenbaum crouching on
the floor.  He saw Randal lower his pistol, and touch the body of
Mastrovin.  "Dead," he heard him say, "stone dead.  Just as well
perhaps."

But that spectacle was eclipsed by other extraordinary things.  The
Countess Araminta was behaving oddly--she seemed to be inclined to
sob.  Around his own neck were Alison's arms, and her cheek was on
his, and the thrill of it almost choked him with joy.  He wanted to
weep too, and he would have wept had not the figure of the man who
had entered with the Countess taken away what breath was left in
him.

It was Newsom the chauffeur, transfigured beyond belief.  He had
become a younger man, for exertion had coloured his pallid skin,
his whiskers had disappeared, and his touzled hair had lost its
touch of grey.  He held the Countess with one arm and looked
ruefully at his right shoulder.

"Close shave," he said.  "The second time tonight too.  First
casualty in the Revolution."  Then he smiled on the company.
"Lucky I cut the wires, or our friend would have dispersed us among
the planets."

The Countess had both hands on his arm, and was looking at him with
misty eyes.

"You saved my life," she cried.  "The shot was meant for me.  You
are a hero.  Oh, tell me your name."

He turned, took her hand, bent over it and kissed it.

"I am Prince John," he said, "and I think that you are going to be
kind enough to help me to a throne."

She drew back a step, looked for a second in his face, and then
curtseyed low.

"My king," she said.

Her bosom heaved under her tunic, and she was no more the
Praefectus but a most emotional young woman. . . .  She looked at
Randal and Jaikie, and at Janet and Archie, as if she were
struggling for something to relieve her feelings.  Then she saw
Alison, and in two steps was beside her and had her in her arms.

"My dear," she said, "you have a very brave lover."



XIII

THE MARCH ON MELINA


I


In Krovolin's best hotel, the Three Kings of the East, Jaikie
enjoyed the novel blessings of comfort and consideration.  By the
Countess's edict Alison, the Roylances and he were at once
conducted there, and the mandate of Juventus secured them the
distinguished attentions of the management.  The released prisoners
were little the worse, for they had not been starved as Jaikie had
been, and the only casualty was Archie, who had been overpowered in
a desperate effort the previous morning to get into the Street of
the White Peacock.  The doping had been clumsily managed, for some
hours before Jaikie's arrival the three had been given a meal quite
different from the coarse fare to which they had been hitherto
treated.  They were offered with it a red wine, which Archie at his
first sip pronounced to be corked.  Alison had tasted it, and,
detecting something sweet and sickly in its flavour, had suspected
a drug, whereupon Janet filled their glasses and emptied them in a
corner.  "Look like sick owls," she advised, when they were taken
to Mastrovin's sanctum, where the overpowering scent was clearly
part of the treatment.  Mastrovin's behaviour showed that her
inspiration had been right, for he had spoken to them as if they
were somnambulists or half-wits. . . .

On the following morning Jaikie, feeling clean and refreshed for
the first time for a week, descended late to the pleasant
restaurant which overlooked the milky waters of the Rave.  The
little city sparkled in the sunlight, and the odour and bustle of a
summer morning came as freshly to his nose and ears as if he had
just risen from a sick-bed.  He realised how heavy his heart had
been for days, and the release sent his spirits soaring. . . .  But
his happiness was more than the absence of care, for last night had
been an epoch in his life, like that evening two years before when,
on the Canonry moor, Alison had waved him good-bye.  For the first
time he had held Alison in his arms and felt her lips on his cheek.
That delirious experience had almost blotted out from his memory
the other elements in the scene.  As he dwelt on it he did not see
the dead Mastrovin, and the crouched figure of Rosenbaum, and the
Countess Araminta on the verge of tears, or hear the ticking of the
clock, and the pistol shot which ended the drama; he saw only
Alison's pale face and her gold hair like a cloud on his shoulder,
and heard that in her strained voice which he had never heard
before. . . .  Jaikie felt the solemn rapture of some hungry,
humble saint who finds his pulse changed miraculously into the
ambrosia of Paradise.

A waiter brought him the morning paper.  He could not read it, but
he could guess at the headlines.  Something tremendous seemed to be
happening in Melina.  There was a portrait of the Archduke Hadrian,
edged with laurels and roses, and from it stared the familiar face
of Mr McCunn.  There was a photograph of a street scene in which
motor-cars and an escort of soldiers moved between serried ranks of
presumably shouting citizens.  In one, next to a splendid figure in
a cocked hat, could be discerned the homely features of Dickson.

He dropped the paper, for Alison had appeared, Alison, fresh as a
flower, with the colour back in her cheeks.  Only her eyes were
still a little tired.  She came straight to him, put her hands on
his shoulders, and kissed him.  "Darling," she said.

"Oh, Alison," he stammered.  "Then it's all right, isn't it?"

She laughed merrily and drew him to a breakfast table in the
window.  "Foolish Jaikie!  As if it would ever have been anything
else!"

There was another voice behind him, and Jaikie found another fair
head beside his.

"I shall kiss you too," said Janet Roylance, "for we're going to be
cousins, you know.  Allie, I wish you joy.  Jaikie, I love you.
Archie?  Oh, he has to stay in bed for a little--the doctor has
just seen him.  He's all right, but his arm wants a rest, and he
got quite a nasty smack on the head. . . .  Let's have breakfast.
I don't suppose there's any hope of kippers."

As they sat down at a table in the window Alison picked up the
newspaper.  She frowned at the pictures from Melina.  Her coffee
grew cold as she puzzled over the headlines.

"I wish I could read this stuff," she said.  "Everything seems to
have gone according to plan, but the question is, what is the next
step?  You realise, don't you, that we've still a nasty fence to
lep.  We've got over the worst, for the Blood-red Rook has taken
Prince John to her bosom.  She'll probably insist on marrying him,
for she believes he saved her life, and I doubt if he is man enough
to escape her.  Perhaps he won't want to, for she's a glorious
creature, but--Jaikie, I think you are lucky to have found a homely
person like me.  Being married to her would be rather like
domesticating a Valkyrie.  You managed that business pretty well,
you know."

"I don't deserve much credit, for I was only fumbling in the dark.
Mr Glynde was the real genius.  Do you think he arranged for the
Countess to turn up, or was it an unrehearsed effect?  If he
arranged it he took a pretty big risk."

"I believe she took the bit in her teeth.  Couldn't bear to be left
out of anything.  But what about Cousin Ran?  He has disappeared
over the skyline, and the only message he left was that we were to
go back to Tarta and await developments.  I'm worried about those
developments, for we don't know what may happen.  Everything has
gone smoothly--except of course our trouble with Mastrovin--but I'm
afraid there may be an ugly snag at the end."

"You mean Mr McCunn?"

"I mean the Archduke Hadrian, who is now in the royal palace at
Melina wishing to goodness that he was safe home at Blaweary."

"I trust him to pull it off," said Jaikie.

"But it's no good trusting Dickson unless other people play up.
Just consider what we've done.  We've worked a huge practical joke
on Juventus, and if Juventus ever came to know about it everything
would be in the soup.  Here you have the youth of Evallonia,
burning with enthusiasm and rejoicing in their young prince, whom
they mean to make king instead of an elderly dotard.  What is
Juventus going to say if they discover that the whole thing has
been a plant to which their young prince has been a consenting
party?  Prince John's stock would fall pretty fast.  You've
wallowed in super-cherie from your cradle, Jaikie dear, so you
don't realise how it upsets ordinary people, especially if they are
young and earnest."

Jaikie laughed.  "I believe you are right.  Everybody's got their
own panache, and the public-school notion of good form isn't really
very different from what in foreigners we call melodrama.  I mean,
it's just as artificial."

"Anyhow, there's not a scrap of humour in it," said Alison.  "The
one thing the Rook won't stand is to be made ridiculous.  No more
will Juventus.  So it's desperately important that Dickson should
disappear into the night and leave no traces.  How many people are
in the plot?"

Jaikie as usual counted on his fingers.

"There's we three--and Sir Archie--and Ashie--and Prince John--and
Prince Odalchini--and I suppose Count Casimir and maybe one or two
other Monarchists.  Not more than that, and it's everybody's
interest to keep it deadly secret."

"That's all right if we can be certain about Dickson getting
quietly away in time.  But supposing Juventus catches him.  Then
it's bound to come out.  I don't mean that they'll do him any harm
beyond slinging him across the frontier.  But he'll look a fool and
we'll look fools--and, much more important, Prince John will look a
fool and a bit of a knave--and the Monarchist leaders, who Ran says
are the only people that can help Juventus to make a success of the
Government. . . .  We must get busy at once.  Since that ruffian
Ran has vanished, we must get hold of Prince John."

But it was not the Prince who chose to visit them as they were
finishing breakfast, but the Countess Araminta.  Jaikie had seen
her in camp as Praefectus, and was prepared to some extent for her
air of command, but the others only knew her as the exotic figure
of London and Geneva, and as the excited girl whose nerves the
night before had been stretched to breaking-point.  Now she seemed
the incarnation of youthful vigour.  The door was respectfully held
open by an aide-de-camp, and she made an entrance like a tragedy
queen.  She wore the uniform of Juventus, but her favourite colour
glowed in a cape which hung over one shoulder.  There was colour
too in her cheeks, and her fine eyes had lost their sullenness.
Everything about her, her trim form, the tilt of her head, the
alert grace of her carriage, spoke of confidence and power.  Jaikie
gasped, for he had never seen anything quite like her.  "Incessu
patuit dea," he thought, out of a vague classical reminiscence.

They all stood up to greet her.

"My friends, my good friends," she cried.  She put a hand on
Jaikie's shoulder, and for one awe-stricken moment he thought she
was going to kiss him.

She smiled upon them in turn.  "Your husband is almost well," she
told Janet.  "I have seen the doctor. . . .  What do you wish to
do, for it is for you to choose?  I must go back to my camp, for
here in Krovolin during the next few days the whole forces of
Juventus will concentrate.  I shall be very busy, but I will
instruct others to attend to you.  What are your wishes?  You have
marched some distance with Juventus--do you care to finish the
course, and enter Melina with us?  You have earned the right to
that."

"You are very kind," said Janet.  "But if you don't mind, I believe
we ought to go home.  You see, my husband should be in Geneva . . .
and I'm responsible for my cousin Alison. . . .  I think if Archie
were here he would agree with me.  Would it be possible for us to
go back to Tarta and rest there for a day or two?  We don't want to
leave Evallonia till we know that you have won, but--you won't
misunderstand me--I don't think we should take any part in the rest
of the show.  You see, we are foreigners, and it is important that
everybody should realise that this is your business and nobody
else's.  My husband is a member of our Parliament, and there might
be some criticism if he were mixed up in it--not so much criticism
of him as of you.  So I think we had better go to Tarta."

Janet spoke diffidently, for she did not know how Juventus might
regard the House of the Four Winds and its owner.  But to her
surprise the Countess made no objection.

"You shall do as you wish," she said.  "Perhaps you are right and
it would be wise to have no foreign names mentioned.  But you must
not think that we shall be opposed and must take Melina by storm.
We shall enter the city with all the bells ringing."

She saw Janet's glance fall on the newspaper on the floor.

"You think there is a rival king?  Ah, but he will not remain.  He
will not want to remain.  The people will not want him.  Trust me,
he will yield at once to the desire of his country."

"What will you do with the Archduke?" Alison asked.

"We will treat him with distinguished respect," was the answer.
"Is he not the brother of our late king and the uncle of him who is
to be our king?  If his health permits, he will be the right-hand
counsellor of the Throne, for he is old and very wise.  At the
Coronation he will carry the Sacred Lamp and the Mantle of St
Sylvester, and deliver with his own voice the solemn charge given
to all Evallonia's sovereigns."

Alison groaned inwardly, having a vision of Dickson in this august
rôle.

"I must leave you," said the Countess.  "You have done great
service to my country's cause, for which from my heart I thank you.
An evil thing has been destroyed, which could not indeed have
defeated Juventus but which might have been a thorn in its side."

"Have you got rid of Mastrovin's gang?" Jaikie asked.

She looked down on him smiling, her hand still on his shoulder.

"They are being rounded up," she replied; "but indeed they count
for nothing since he is dead.  Mastrovin is not of great
importance--not now, though once he was Evallonia's evil genius.
At the worst he was capable of murder in the dark.  He was a
survivor of old black days that the world is forgetting.  He was a
prophet of foolish crooked things that soon all men will loath."

Her voice had risen, her face had flushed, she drew herself up to
her slim height, and in that room, amid the debris of breakfast and
with the sun through the long windows making a dazzle of light
around her, the Countess Araminta became for a moment her
ancestress who had ridden with John Sobieski against the Turk.  To
three deeply impressed listeners she expounded her creed.

"Mastrovin is dead," she said; "but that is no matter, for he and
his kind were dead long ago.  They were revenants, ghosts, hideous
futile ghosts.  They lived by hate, hating what they did not
understand.  They were full of little vanities and fears, and were
fit for nothing but to destroy.  Back-numbers you call them in
England--I call them shadows of the dark which vanish when the
light comes.  We of Juventus do not hate, we love, but in our love
we are implacable.  We love everything in our land, all that is old
in it and all that is new, and we love all our people, from the
greatest to the humblest.  We have given back to Evallonia her
soul, and once again we shall make her a great nation.  But it will
be a new nation, for everyone will share in its government."  She
paused.  "All will be sovereigns, because all will be subjects."

She was a true actress, for she knew how to make the proper exit.
Her rapt face softened.  With one hand still on Jaikie's shoulder
she laid the other on Alison's head and stroked her hair.

"Will you lend me your lover, my dear?" she said.  "Only for a
little--since he will join you at Tarta.  I think he may be useful
as a liaison between Juventus and those who doubtless mean well but
have been badly advised."

Then she was gone, and all the colour and half the light seemed to
have left the room.

"Gosh!" Jaikie exclaimed, when they were alone.  "It looks as if I
were for it."  He remembered the phrase about subjects and
sovereigns as coming from a philosopher on whom at Cambridge he had
once written an essay.  No doubt she had got it from Dr Jagon, and
he had qualms as to what might happen if the public-school code got
mixed up with philosophy.

Janet looked grave.

"What a woman!" she said.  "I like her, but I'm scared by her.  The
Blood-red Rook is not the name--she's the genuine eagle.  I'm more
anxious than ever about Mr McCunn.  Juventus is a marvellous thing,
but she said herself that it was implacable.  There's nothing in
the world so implacable as the poet if you attempt to guy his
poetry, and that's what we have been doing.  There's going to be a
terrible mix-up unless Dickson can disappear in about two days and
leave no traces behind him; and I don't see how that's to be
managed now that he is planted in a palace in the middle of an
excited city."

To three anxious consultants there entered Prince John.  Somehow or
other he had got in touch with his kit, for he was smartly dressed
in a suit of light flannels, with a rose in his buttonhole.

"I'm supposed to be still incognito," he explained, "and I have to
lurk here till the concentration of Juventus is complete.  That
should be some time to-morrow.  Sir Archie is all right.  I've just
seen him, and he is to be allowed to get up after luncheon.  I hope
you can control him, Lady Roylance, for I can't.  He is determined
to be in at the finish, he says, and was simply blasphemous when I
told him that he was an alien and must keep out of it.  It won't
do, you know.  You must all go back to Tarta at once.  He doesn't
quite appreciate the delicacy of the situation or what compromising
people you are."

"We do," said Janet.  "We've just had a discourse from the
Countess.  You won't find it easy to live up to that young woman,
sir."

Prince John laughed.

"I think I can manage Mintha.  She is disposed to be very humble
and respectful with me, for she has always been a staunch royalist.
Saved her life, too, she thinks--though I don't believe Mastrovin
meant his shot for her--I believe he spotted me, and he always
wanted to do me in.  She's by way of being our prophetess, but she
is no fool, and, besides, there's any number of sober-minded people
to keep her straight.  What I have to live up to is Juventus
itself, and that will take some doing.  It's a tremendous thing,
you know, far bigger and finer than any of us thought, and it's
going to be the salvation of Evallonia.  Perhaps more than that.
What was it your Pitt said--'Save its country by its efforts and
Europe by its example'?  But it's youth, and youth takes itself
seriously, and if anybody laughs at it or tries to play tricks with
it he'll get hurt.  That's where we are rather on the knife-edge."

"My dear Uncle Hadrian," he went on, "is in bed at home in France
and reported to be sinking.  That is Odalchini's last word, and
Odalchini has the affair well in hand.  My uncle's secretary is
under his orders, and not a scrap of news is allowed to leave the
chateau."

"The Countess seems to be better disposed to Prince Odalchini,"
said Janet.

"She is.  Odalchini has opened negotiations with Juventus.  He has
let it be known that he and his friends will not contest my right
to the throne, and that the Archduke has bowed to this view and
proposes to leave the country.  Of course he speaks for Casimir and
the rest.  That is all according to plan.  Presently His Royal
Highness will issue a proclamation resigning all claims.  But in
the meantime our unhappy Scotch friend is masquerading in the
palace of Melina--in deep seclusion, of course, for the Archduke is
an old and frail man, and is seeing no one as yet--but still there,
with the whole capital agog for a sight of him.  You will say,
smuggle him out and away with him across the frontier.  But
Juventus has other ideas--Mintha has other ideas.  There is to be a
spectacular meeting between uncle and nephew--a noble renunciation--
a tender reconciliation--and the two surviving males of the
Evallonian royal house are to play a joint part in the restoration
of the monarchy.  Juventus has the good sense to understand that it
needs Casimir and his lot to help it to get the land straight, and
it thinks that that will be best managed by having its claimant and
their claimant working in double harness.  I say 'Juventus thinks,'
but it's that hussy Mintha who does the thinking, and the others
accept it.  That's the curse of a romantic girl in politics. . . .
So there's the tangle we're in.  There will be the devil to pay if
the Archduke isn't out of the country within three days without
anyone setting eyes on him, and that's going to be a large-size job
for somebody."

"For whom?" Jaikie asked.

"Principally for you," was the answer.  "You seem to get all the
worst jobs in this business.  You're young, you see--you're our
Juventus."

"She says I have to go with her."

"You have to stay here.  I asked for you.  Thank Heaven she has
taken an enormous fancy to you.  Miss Alison needn't be jealous,
for Mintha has about as much sex as a walking-stick.  I daresay she
would insist on marrying me, if she thought the country needed it,
but I shall take jolly good care to avoid that.  No warrior-queen
for me. . . .  All of you except Jaikie go back to Tarta this
afternoon, and there Odalchini will keep you advised about what is
happening.  Jaikie stays here, and as soon as possible he goes to
Melina.  Don't look so doleful, my son.  You won't be alone there.
Randal Glynde, to the best of my belief, is by this time in the
palace."



Late that afternoon Janet and Alison, accompanied by a bitterly
protesting Archie, left Krovolin for the House of the Four Winds.
Next day there began for Jaikie two crowded days filled with a
manifold of new experiences.  The wings of Juventus, hitherto on
the periphery of Evallonia, drew towards the centre.  The whole
business was a masterpiece of organisation, and profoundly
impressed him with the fact that this was no flutter of youth, but
a miraculous union of youth and experience.  Three-fourths of the
higher officers were mature men, some of them indeed old soldiers
of Evallonia in the Great War.  The discipline was military, and
the movements had full military precision, but it was clear that
this was a civilian army, with every form of expert knowledge in
it, and trained more for civil reconstruction than for war.

Dr Jagon, who embraced him publicly, enlarged on its novel
character.  "It is triumphant democracy," he declared, "purged of
the demagogue.  Its root is not emotion but reason--sentiment,
indeed, of the purest, but sentiment rationalised.  It is the State
disciplined and enlightened.  It is an example to all the world,
the pioneer of marching humanity.  God be praised that I have lived
to see this day."

Prince John's presence was formally made known, and at a review of
the wings he took his place, in the uniform of Juventus, as
Commander-in-Chief.  The newspapers published his appeal to the
nation, in which he had judiciously toned down Dr Jagon's
philosophy and the Countess's heroics.  Presently, too, they issued
another document, the submission of the Monarchist leaders.  City
and camp were kindled to a fervour of patriotism, and addresses
poured in from every corner of the land.

On the afternoon of the second day Jaikie was summoned to the
Prince's quarters, where the Countess and the other wing commanders
were present.  There he was given his instructions.  "You will
proceed at once to Melina, Mr Galt," said the Prince, "and confer
with Count Casimir Muresco, with whom I believe you are already
acquainted.  To-morrow we advance to the capital, of whose
submission we have been already assured.  We desire that His Royal
Highness the Archduke should be associated with our reception, and
we have prepared a programme for the approval of His Royal Highness
and his advisers.  On our behalf and on behalf of Juventus you will
see that this programme is carried out.  I think that I am
expressing the wishes of my headquarters staff."

The wing commanders bowed gravely, and the Countess favoured Jaikie
with an encouraging smile.  He thought that he detected in Prince
John's eye the faintest suspicion of a wink.  As he was getting
into his car, with an aide-de-camp and an orderly to attend him,
Ashie appeared and drew him aside.

"For God's sake," he whispered, "get your old man out of the way.
Shoot him and bury him if necessary."

"I'd sooner shoot the lot of you," said Jaikie.

"Well, if you don't you'd better shoot yourself.  And me, too, for
I won't survive a fiasco.  Mintha has got off on her high horse,
and Juventus is following her.  She has drawn up a programme of
ceremonies a yard long, in which your old fellow is cast for a
principal part.  There'll be bloody murder if they find themselves
let down.  They're a great lot, and my own lot, but they won't
stand for ragging."


II


Dickson, enveloped in a military great-coat and muffled up about
the neck because of his advanced age and indifferent health,
enjoyed his journey in the late afternoon from Krovolin to Melina.
He sat beside Prince Odalchini on the back seat of a large Daimler,
with Count Casimir opposite him.  There were police cars in front
and behind, and a jingling escort of National Guards who made their
progress slow.  The movement, the mellow air, the rich and sunlit
champaign raised his spirits and dispelled his nervousness.  His
roving eye scanned the landscape and noted with pleasure the
expectant villagers and the cheering group of countrymen.  On the
outskirts of the capital a second troop of Guards awaited them, and
as they entered by the ancient River Port there was a salute of
guns from the citadel and every bell in every steeple broke into
music.  It had been arranged, in deference to His Royal Highness's
frailty, that there should be no municipal reception, but the
streets were thronged with vociferous citizens and the click of
cameras was like the rattle of machine-guns.

The cars swung through what looked like a Roman triumphal arch into
a great courtyard, on three sides of which rose the huge baroque
Palace.  At this point Dickson's impressions became a little
confused.  He was aware that troops lined the courtyard--he heard a
word of command and saw rifles presented at the salute.  He was
conscious of being tenderly assisted from his car, and conducted
between bowing servants through a high doorway and across endless
marble pavements.  Then came a shallow staircase, and a corridor
lined with tall portraits.  He came to anchor at last in what
seemed to be a bedroom, though it was as big as a church.  The
evening was warm, but there were fires lit in two fireplaces.  As
he got out of his great-coat he realised that he was alone with
Prince Odalchini and Count Casimir, each of whom helped himself to
a stiff whisky-and-soda from a side-table.

"Thank Heaven that is over," cried the latter.  "Well over, too.
Your Royal Highness will keep your chamber to-night, and you will
be valeted by my own man.  Do not utter one word, and for God's
sake try to look as frail as possible.  You are a sick man, you
understand, which is the reason for this privacy.  To-morrow you
will have to show yourself from one of the balconies to the people
of Melina.  To-morrow, too, I hope that your own equerry will
arrive.  It is better that you should be alone to-night.  You
realise, I think, how delicate the position is?  Silence and great
bodily weakness--these are your trump cards.  It may be a little
lonely for you, but that is inevitable."

Dickson looked round the immense room, which was hung with
tapestries depicting the doings in battle of the sixteenth-century
King John of Evallonia.  From the windows there was a wide view
over the glades of the park with a shining river at the end.  The
two fires burned brightly, and on a bed like a field he observed
his humble pyjamas.  His spirits were high.

"Ugh," he said, "I'll do fine.  This is a cheery place.  I'll not
utter a cheep, and I'll behave as if I was a hundred years old.  I
hope they'll send me up a good dinner, for I'm mortal hungry."

Dickson spent a strange but not unpleasant evening.  Count
Casimir's valet proved to be an elderly Frenchman whose reverence
for royalty was such that he kept his eyes downcast and uttered no
word except "Altesse," and that in a tone of profound humility.
Dickson was conducted to an adjoining bathroom, where he bathed in
pale-blue scented water.  In the bathroom he nearly drowned himself
by turning on all the taps at once, but he enjoyed himself hugely
splashing the water about and watching it running in marble grooves
to an exit.  After that he was enveloped in a wonderful silk
dressing-gown, which hid the humbleness of his pyjamas--pyjamas
from which he observed that the name-tag had been removed.

The dinner served in his bedroom was all that his heart would wish,
and its only blemish was that, from a choice of wines offered him,
he selected a tokay which tasted unpleasantly like a medicine of
his boyhood, so that he was forced to relapse upon a whisky-and-
soda.  "Even in a palace life may be lived well," he quoted to
himself from a favourite poet.  After dinner he was put to bed
between sheets as fine as satin, and left with a reading-lamp on
his bedside table surrounded by a selection of fruit and biscuits.
He turned out the lamp, and lay for some time watching the glow of
the fire and the amber twilight in the uncurtained windows.
Outside he could hear the tramp of the sentries and far off the
rumour of crowded streets.  At first he was too excited to be
drowsy, for the strangeness of his position came over him in gusts,
and his chuckles were mingled with an unpleasant trepidation.
"You'll need to say your prayers, Dickson my man," he told himself,
"for you're in for a desperate business.  It's the kind of thing
you read about in books."  But the long day had wearied him, and he
had dined abundantly, so before long he fell asleep.

He woke to a bright morning and a sense of extreme bodily well-
being.  He drank his tea avidly; he ran off the hot bath which had
been prepared for him, and had a cold one instead.  He took ten
minutes instead of five over his exercises, and two instead of five
over his prayers.  He put on his best blue suit--he was thankful he
had brought it from Rosensee--and a white shirt and a sober tie,
for he felt that this was no occasion for flamboyance in dress.
From all his garments he noted with interest that the marks of
identification had been removed.  As he examined his face in the
glass he decided that he did not look the age of the Archduke and
that he was far too healthily coloured for a sick man, so he rubbed
some of the powder which Count Casimir had given him over his
cheeks and well into his thinning hair.  The result rather scared
him, for he now looked a cross between a consumptive and a badly
made-up actor.  At breakfast he was compelled to exercise self-
denial.  He could have eaten everything provided, but he dared not
repeat his performance at dinner the night before, so he contented
himself with three cups of coffee, a peach, and the contents of the
toast rack.  The servants who cleared away saw an old man resting
on a couch with closed eyes, the very image of a valetudinarian.

After that time hung heavy on his hands.  It was a fine morning and
he felt that he could walk twenty miles.  The sound of the bustle
of an awaking city, and the view from the windows of miles of
sunburnt grass and boats on the distant river, made him profoundly
restless.  His great bedroom was furnished like a room in a public
building, handsomely but dully; there was nothing in it to interest
him, and the only book he had brought was Sir Thomas Browne, an
author for whom at the moment he did not feel inclined.  Urn-burial
and a doctor's religion were clean out of the picture.  A sheaf of
morning papers had been provided, but he could not read them,
though he observed with interest the pictures of his entry into
Melina.  He prowled about miserably, taking exercise as a man does
in the confined space of a ship's deck.

Then it occurred to him that he might extend his walk and do a
little exploration.  He cautiously opened the door and looked into
a deserted corridor.  The place was as empty and as silent as a
tomb, so there could be no risk in venturing a little way down it.
He tried one or two doors which were locked.  One opened into a
vast chamber where the furniture was all in dust sheets.  Then he
came to a circular gallery around a subsidiary staircase, and he
was just considering whether he might venture down it when he heard
voices and the sound of footsteps on the marble.  He skipped back
the road he had come, and for an awful minute was uncertain of his
room.  One door which he tried refused to open, and the voices were
coming nearer.  Happily the next door on which he hurled himself
was the right one, and he dropped panting into an armchair.

This adventure shook him out of all his morning placidity.  "I
won't be able to stand this place very long," he reflected.  "I
can't behave like a cripple, when I'm fair bursting with health.
It's worse than being in jyle."  And then an uglier thought came to
him.  "I've got in here easy enough, but how on earth am I going to
get out?  I must abdicate, and that's simple, but what's to become
of me after that?  How can I disappear, when there will be about a
million folk wanting a sight of me?"

He spent a dismal forenoon.  He longed for some familiar face,
even Peter Wappit, who had been sent back to Tarta.  He longed
especially for Jaikie, and he indulged in some melancholy
speculations as to that unfortunate's fate.  "He had to face the
daft Countess," he thought, "and Jaikie was always terrible nervous
with women."  Then he began to be exasperated with Count Casimir
and Prince Odalchini, who had left him in this anxious solitude.
And Prince John.  It was for Prince John's sake that he had come
here, and unless he presently got some enlightenment he would go
out and look for it.

He was slightly pacified by the arrival of both the Count and
Prince Odalchini about midday, for both were in high spirits.
Luncheon was served to the three in his bedroom, a light meal at
which no servants were present and they waited on themselves.  They
had news of high importance for him.  Prince John was with
Juventus--had been accepted with acclamation by Juventus and not
least by the Countess Araminta.  Juventus was in a friendly mood
and appeared willing to accept the overtures of the Monarchists,
who had already informed it that the Archduke would not resist what
was plainly the desire of the people, but would relinquish all
claims to the throne.  "We must prepare your abdication," said
Count Casimir.  "It should be in the papers to-morrow, or the day
after at the latest.  For the day after to-morrow Juventus will
reach Melina."

"Thank God for that," said Dickson.  "I'll abdicate like a shot,
but what I want to know is, how I'm to get away.  I must be off
long before they arrive, for yon Countess will be wanting my
blood."

"I hope not," said the Count.  "Juventus will have too much on its
hands to trouble about a harmless old gentleman."

"I'm not worrying about Juventus," said Dickson gloomily.  "It's
the woman I'm thinking about, and from all I've heard I wouldn't
put it past her."

"One of your difficulties will be the Press," Prince Odalchini
said.  "Correspondents are arriving here from all quarters of
Europe--mostly by the air, since the frontiers are closed."

"Here!  This is awful," cried the alarmed Dickson.  "I know the
breed, and they'll be inside this place and interviewing me, and
where will we all be then?"

"I think not.  You are well guarded.  But there's one man I'm
uncertain about.  He flew here this morning from Vienna, and I
don't quite know what to do about him.  He's not a correspondent,
you see, but the representative of the English Press group that has
always been our chief ally."

"What's his name?" Dickson asked with a sudden hope.

The Prince drew a card from his pocket.  "Crombie," he read.  "The
right-hand man of the great Craw.  I haven't seen him, but he has
written to me.  I felt that I was bound to treat him with some
consideration, so he is coming here at three o'clock."

"You'll bring him to me at once," said Dickson joyfully.  "Man, you
know him--you saw him in the Canonry--a lad with a red head and a
dour face.  It's my old friend Dougal, and you can trust him to the
other side of Tophet.  You'll bring him straight up, and you'll
never let on it's me.  He'll get the surprise of his life."

Mr McCunn was not disappointed.  Dougal at three o'clock was duly
ushered into the room by Count Casimir.  "Your Royal Highness, I
have to present Mr Crombie of the Craw Press," he said, and bowed
himself out.

Dougal made an awkward obeisance and advanced three steps.  Then he
stopped in his tracks and gaped.

"It's you!" he stammered.

"Ay, it's me," said Dickson cheerfully.  "You didn't know what you
were doing when you whippit me out of Rosensee and sent me on my
travels.  This was my own notion, and I'm sort of proud of it.  I
got it by minding what happened when Jimmy Turnbull was running for
Lord Provost of Glasgow, and his backers put up David Duthie so
that the other and stronger lot could run Jimmy.  You'll mind
that?"

"I mind it," said Dougal hoarsely, sinking into a chair.

"And by the mercy of Providence it turned out that I was the living
image of the old Archduke.  It has answered fine.  Here I am as His
Royal Highness, the brother of his late Majesty, and Juventus has
gone daft about Prince John, and I'm about to abdicate, and in two-
three days Prince John will be King of Evallonia and not a dog will
bark.  I think I've done well by that young man."

"Ay, maybe you have," said Dougal grimly.  "But the question is,
what is to become of YOU?  This is not the Glasgow Town Council,
and Evallonia is not Scotland.  How are you going to get out of
this?"

"Fine," Dickson replied, but less confidently, for Dougal's solemn
face disquieted him.  "There's not a soul knows about it, except
two or three whose interest it is to keep quiet.  When I've
abdicated I'll just slip cannily away, and be over the border
before Juventus gets here."

"You think that will be easy?  I only arrived this morning, but
I've seen enough to know that the whole of Melina is sitting round
the palace like hens round a baikie.  They're for you and they're
for Prince John, and they want to see the two of you make it up.
And half the papers in Europe have sent their correspondents here,
and I know too much about my own trade to take that lightly.  To
get you safely out of the country will be a heavy job, I can tell
you."

"I'll trust my luck," said Dickson stoutly, but his eyes were a
little anxious.  "Thank God you're here, Dougal."

"Yes, thank God I'm here.  The trouble with you is you're too
brave.  You don't stop to think of risks.  Suppose you're found
out.  Juventus is a big thing, a bigger thing than the world knows,
but it's desperate serious, and it won't understand pranks.  Won't
understand, and won't forgive.  At present it's inclined to be
friendly with the Monarchists, and use them, for it badly needs
them.  But if it had a suspicion of this game, Count Casimir and
Prince Odalchini and the rest would be in the dock for high
treason.  And yourself!  Well, I'm not sure what would happen to
you, but it wouldn't be pleasant."

"You're a Job's comforter, Dougal.  Anyway, it's a great thing to
have you here.  I wish I had Jaikie too.  You'll come and bide
here, for I'll want you near me?"

"Yes, I'd better move in.  I'll see the Count about it at once.
Some of us will have to do some pretty solid thinking in the next
twenty-four hours."

Dougal found Count Casimir in a good humour, for he had further
news from Krovolin.  It appeared that Juventus not only forgave the
putting forward of the Archduke, but applauded it as a chance of
making the monarchical restoration impressive by enlisting both the
surviving males of the royal house.  The Countess Araminta was
especially enthusiastic, and an elaborate programme had been drawn
up--first the meeting of Prince John and his uncle--then the
presentation to Melina of the young man by the old--and last, the
ceremonial functioning of the Archduke at the Coronation.

"The wheel has come full circle," said the Count.  "Now all the
land is royalist.  But it is the more incumbent upon us to proceed
with caution, for a slip now would mean a dreadful fall.  We must
get our friend away very soon."

At this conference a third person was present--Randal Glynde, so
very point-device that his own employees would scarcely have
recognised in him the scarecrow of the Cirque Doré.  His hair and
beard were trimly barbered, the latter having been given a naval
cut, and his morning suit was as exquisite a thing as the clothes
he had worn at the Lamanchas' party.  "I am His Royal Highness's
chief equerry," he told Dougal, "just arrived from France.  The
news will be in the evening papers.  Since I speak Evallonian I can
make life a little easier for him."

Dougal had listened gloomily to Count Casimir's exposition of the
spectacular duties which Juventus proposed for the Archduke.

"You haven't told Mr McCunn that?" he demanded anxiously, and was
informed that the Count had only just heard it himself.

"Well, you mustn't breathe a word of it to him.  Not on your life.
He's an extraordinary man, and though I've studied him for years, I
haven't got near the bottom of him.  He's what you might call a
desperate character.  What other man would have taken on a job like
this--for fun?  For fun, remember.  He has always been like that.
He thinks it was his promise to Prince John, but that was only a
small bit of it.  The big thing for him was that he was living up
to a notion he has of himself, and that notion won't let him shirk
anything, however daft, if it appeals to his imagination.  He's the
eternal adventurer, the only one I've ever met--the kind of fellow
Ulysses must have been--the heart of a boy and the head of an old
serpent.  I've been trying to solemnise him by telling him what a
needle-point he's standing on--how hard it will be for him to get
away, and what a devil's own mess there'll be if he doesn't.  He
was impressed, and a little bit frightened--I could see that--but
in a queer way he was pleased too.  He'll go into it with a white
face and his knees trembling, but he'll go through with it, and by
the mercy of God he'll get away with it.  But just let him know
what Juventus proposes and he won't budge one step.  The idea of a
Coronation and his carrying the Sacred Lamp and all the rest of it
would fair go to his head.  He would be determined to have a shot
at it and trust to luck to carry him through.  Oh, I know it's
sheer mania, but that's Mr McCunn, and when he sticks his hoofs
into the ground traction engines wouldn't shift him. . . .  You've
got that clear?  I want you to arrange for me to move in here, for
I ought to be near him."

Count Casimir bowed.  "I accept your reading of him," he said, "and
I shall act on it."  Then he added, rather to Randal than to
Dougal, "I believe he was originally a Glasgow grocer.  The
provision-trade in Scotland must be a remarkable profession."

Dickson had on the whole a pleasant evening.  In the first place he
had Mr Glynde, an exquisite velvet-footed attendant, whose presence
made other servants needless except for the mere business of
fetching and carrying.  Then he enjoyed the business of writing his
abdication.  The draft was prepared by Count Casimir, but he took
pains to amend the style, assisted by Randal, in whom he discovered
a literary connoisseur of a high order.  I am afraid that the
resulting document was a rather precious composition, full of
Stevensonian cadences and with more than a hint of the prophet
Isaiah.  Happily Count Casimir was there to turn it into robust
Evallonian prose.

Dickson and Randal dined alone together, and the former heard with
excitement of the doings in the Street of the White Peacock.  The
peril of Alison and the Roylances, not to speak of Jaikie, made him
catch his breath, and the manner of Mastrovin's end gave him deep
satisfaction.

"I'm glad yon one is out of the world," he said.  "He was a
cankered body.  It was your shot that did it?  What does it feel
like to kill a man?"

"In Mastrovin's case rather like breaking the back of a stoat that
is after your chickens.  Have you ever been the death of anyone, Mr
McCunn?"

"I once had a try," said Dickson modestly.  Then his thoughts
fastened on Jaikie.

"You tell me he's safe and well?  And he gets on fine with the
Countess?"

"He promises to be her white-headed boy.  She is a lady of violent
likes and dislikes, and she seems to have fallen completely for
Master Jaikie.  Prince John, of course, is deep in his debt.  I
think that if he wants it he might have considerable purchase at
the new Court of Evallonia."

"Do you say so?  That would be a queer profession for a laddie that
came out of the Gorbals.  There's another thing."  Dickson
hesitated.  "I think Jaikie is terrible fond of Miss Alison."

Randal smiled.  "I believe that affair is going well.  Last night,
I fancy, clinched it.  They clung together like two lovers."

Dickson's eyes became misty.

"Well--well.  It's a grand thing to be young.  That reminds me of
something where I want you to help me, Mr Glynde.  My will was made
years ago, and is deposited with Paton and Linklater in Glasgow.  I
haven't forgot Jaikie, but I think I must make further and better
provision for him, as the lawyers say.  I've prepared a codicil,
and I want it signed and witnessed the morn.  I've determined that
Jaikie shall be well-tochered, and if Miss Alison has the beauty
and the blood he at any rate will have the siller.  No man knows
what'll happen to me in the next day or two, and I'd be easier in
my mind if I got this settled."

"To-morrow you must stay in bed," said Randal, as he said good
night.  "You must profess to be exceedingly unwell."

Dickson grinned.  "And me feeling like a he-goat on the mountains!"


III


Next day an unwilling Dickson kept his bed.  He had the codicil of
his will signed and witnessed, which gave him some satisfaction.
Randal translated for him the comments of the Evallonian Press on
his abdication, and he was gratified to learn that he had behaved
with a royal dignity and the self-abnegation of a patriot.  But
after that he grew more restless with every hour.

"What for am I lying here?" he asked repeatedly.  "I should be up
and off or I'll be grippit."

"Juventus works to a schedule," Randal explained, "and its formal
entry into Melina is timed for to-morrow.  The Press announces to-
day that you are seriously indisposed, and therefore you cannot
appear in public before the people, which is what Melina is
clamouring for.  News of your being confined to bed this morning
has already been issued, and a bulletin about your health will be
published at midday.  You appreciate the position, Mr McCunn?"

"Fine," said Dickson.

"It is altogether necessary that you get away in good time, but it
is also necessary that you have a good reason for your going--an
excuse for Melina, and especially for Juventus.  They are not
people whose plans can be lightly disregarded.  If there is to be
peace in Evallonia, Count Casimir and his friends must be in favour
with Juventus, and that will not happen if we begin by offending
it.  We must get a belief in your critical state of health firm in
the minds of the people, and our excuse for your going must be that
any further excitement would endanger your life.  So we must move
carefully and not too fast.  Our plan is to get you out of here to-
night very secretly, and the fact that you did not leave till the
question of your health became urgent will, we hope, convince
Juventus of our good intentions."

"That's maybe right enough," said Dickson doubtfully, "but it's a
poor job for me.  I have to lie here on my back, and I've nothing
to read except Sir Thomas Browne, and I can't keep my mind on him.
I'm getting as nervous as a peesweep."

Luncheon saw an anxious company round his bed, Prince Odalchini,
Count Casimir, Dougal and Mr Glynde.  They had ominous news.  The
advanced troops of Juventus had arrived, a picked body who had been
instructed to take over the duty of palace guards.  They had
accordingly replaced the detachment of National Guards, which had
been sent to occupy the approaches to the city.  There had been no
difficulty about the transference, but it appeared that there was
going to be extreme difficulty with the palace's new defenders.
For these Juventus shock-troops had strict orders, and a strict
notion of fulfilling them.  No movement out of the city was
permitted for the next twenty-four hours.  No movement out of the
Palace was permitted for the same period.  Count Casimir had
interviewed the officer commanding and had found him respectful but
rigid.  If any member of the Archduke's entourage wished to leave
it would be necessary to get permission by telephone from
headquarters at Krovolin.

"I do not think that Juventus is suspicious," said the Count.  "It
is only its way of doing business.  It has youth's passion for
meticulous detail."

"That puts the lid on it for us," said Dougal.  "We can't ask
permission for Mr McCunn to leave, for Juventus would be here in no
time making inquiries for itself.  And it will be an awful business
to smuggle him out.  I can tell you these lads know their work.
They have sentries at every approach, and they are patrolling every
yard of the back parts and the park side.  Besides, once he was out
of here, what better would he be?  He would have still to get out
of the city, and the whole countryside between here and Tarta is
policed by Juventus.  They are taking no chances."

There were poor appetites at luncheon.  Five reasonably intelligent
men sat in a stupor of impotence, repeating wearily the essentials
of a problem which they could not solve.  They must get Dickson
away within not more than twenty hours, and they must get him off
in such a manner that they would have a convincing story to tell
Juventus.  Dickson sat up in his bed in extreme discomposure,
Dougal had his head in his hands, Count Casimir strode up and down
the room, and even Randal Glynde seemed shaken out of his customary
insouciance.  Prince Odalchini had left them on some errand of his
own.

The last-named returned about three o'clock with a tragic face.

"I have just had a cipher telegram," he said.  "I have my own means
of getting them through.  The Archduke Hadrian died this morning at
eleven o'clock.  His death will not be announced till I give the
word, but the announcement cannot be delayed more than two days--
three at the most.  Therefore we must act at once.  There is not an
hour to waste."

"There is not an hour to waste," Casimir cried, "but we are an
eternity off having any plan."

"I'm dead," said Dickson.  "At least the man I'm pretending to be
is dead.  Well, I'll maybe soon be dead myself."  His tone was
almost cheerful, as if the masterful comedy of events had
obliterated his own cares.

"There is nothing to do but to risk it," said Prince Odalchini.
"We must go on with our plan for to-night, and pray that Juventus
may be obtuse.  The odds I admit are about a thousand to one."

"And on these crazy odds depends the fate of a nation," said
Casimir bitterly.



To this miserable conclave entered Jaikie--Jaikie, trim, brisk and
purposeful.  He wore the uniform of a Juventus staff-officer, and
on his right arm was the Headquarters brassard.  To Dickson's
anxious eyes he was a different being from the shabby youth he had
last seen at Tarta.  This new Jaikie was a powerful creature,
vigorous and confident, the master, not the plaything, of Fate.  He
remembered too that this was Alison's accepted lover.  At the sight
of him all his fears vanished.

"Man Jaikie, but I'm glad to see you," he cried.  "You've just come
in time to put us right."

"I hope so," was the answer.  "Anyway, I've come to represent
Juventus Headquarters here till they take over to-morrow."

He looked round the company, and his inquiring eye induced Casimir
to repeat his mournful tale.  Jaikie listened with a puckered brow.

"It's going to be a near thing," he said at last.  "And we must
take some risks. . . .  Still, I believe it can be done.  Listen.
I've brought a Headquarters car with the Headquarters flag on the
bonnet.  Also I have a pass which enables me and the car and anyone
I send in the car to go anywhere in Evallonia.  I insisted on that,
for I expected that there might be some trouble.  That is our trump
card.  I can send Mr McCunn off in it, and that will give us a
story for Juventus tomorrow. . . .  But on the other hand there is
nothing to prevent the Juventus sentries from looking inside, and
if they see Mr McCunn--well, his face is unfortunately too well
known from their infernal papers, and they have their orders,
and they're certain to insist on telephoning to Krovolin for
directions, and that would put the fat in the fire.  We must get
them into a frame of mind when they won't want to look too closely.
Let me think."

"Ay, Jaikie, think," said Dickson, almost jovially.  "It must never
be said that a Gorbals Die-hard was beat by a small thing like
that."

After a little Jaikie raised his head.

"This is the best I can do.  Mr McCunn must show himself to Melina.
In spite of his feebleness and the announcement in the Press to-
day, he must make an effort to have one look at his affectionate
people.  Ring up the newspaper offices, and get it into the stop-
press of the evening papers that at seven o'clock the Archduke will
appear on the palace balcony.  You've got that?  Then at a quarter-
past seven my car must be ready to start.  You must go with it,
Prince.  Have you a man of your own that you can trust to drive,
for I daren't risk the Juventus chauffeur."

Prince Odalchini nodded.  "I have such a man."

"What I hope for is this," Jaikie went on.  "The Juventus guards,
having seen the Archduke on the balcony a few minutes before, and
having observed a tottering old man who has just risen from a sick-
bed, won't expect him to be in the car.  I'll have a word with
their commandant and explain that you are taking two of your
servants to Tarta, and that you have my permission, as representing
the Headquarters staff."

He stopped.

"But there's a risk, all the same.  If they catch a glimpse of Mr
McCunn they will insist on ringing up Krovolin.  I know what
conscientious beggars they are, and I'm only a staff-officer, not
their commander.  Couldn't we do something to distract their
attention at the critical moment?"  He looked towards Randal with a
sudden inspiration.

Mr Glynde smiled.

"I think I can manage that," he said.  "If I may be excused, I will
go off and see about it."

As the hour of seven chimed from the three and thirty towers of
Melina, there was an unusual bustle in the great front courtyard of
the Palace.  The evening papers had done their work, rumour with
swift foot had sped through the city, and the Juventus sentries had
permitted the entrance of a crowd which the Press next day
estimated as not less than twenty thousand.  On the balcony above
the main portico, flanked by a row of palace officials, stood a
little group of men.  Some wore the uniform of the old Evallonian
Court, and Jaikie alone had the Juventus green.  They made a
passage, in which appeared Count Casimir and Prince Odalchini, both
showing the famous riband and star of the White Falcon.  Between
them they supported a frail figure which wore a purple velvet
dressing-gown and a skull-cap, so that it looked like some very
ancient Prince of the Church.  It was an old man, with a deathly
white face, who blinked his eyes wearily, smiled wanly, and bowed
as with a great effort to the cheering crowds.  There was a dignity
in him which impressed the most heedless, the dignity of an earlier
age, and an extreme fragility which caught at the heart.  The
guards saluted, every hat was raised, but there was some constraint
in the plaudits.  The citizens of Melina felt that they were in the
presence of one who had but a slender hold on life.

Dickson was stirred to his depths.  The sea of upturned faces moved
him strangely, for he had never before stood on a pinnacle above
his fellow-men.  He did not need to act his part, for in that
moment he felt himself the authentic Archduke, an exile returning
only to die.  He was wearing a dead man's shoes.  Next day the
papers were to comment upon the pathetic spectacle of this old man
bidding Ave atque vale to the people he loved.

The car was waiting in a small inner courtyard.  It was a big
limousine with the blinds drawn on one side, so that the interior
was but dimly seen.  Dickson entered and sat himself in the
duskiest corner, wearing the military overcoat in which he had
arrived, with the collar turned up and a thick muffler.  Dougal
took the seat by the driver.  The car moved through the inner
gateway and came into the outer court, which was the private
entrance to the Palace.  At the other end the court opened into the
famous thoroughfare known as the Avenue of the Kings, and there
stood the Juventus sentries.

The Headquarters flag fluttered at the car's bonnet, and Prince
Odalchini's hand through the open window displayed the familiar
green and white Headquarters pass.  The sentries saluted, and their
officer, whom Jaikie had already interviewed, nodded and took a
step towards the car.  It may have been his intention to examine
the interior, but that will never be known, for his activities were
suddenly compelled to take a different form.

In the Avenue was a great crowd streaming away from the ceremony in
the main palace courtyard.  The place was broad enough for
thousands, and the sounding of the car's horn had halted the press
and made a means of egress.  But coming from the opposite direction
was a circus procession, which, keeping its proper side of the
road, had got very close to the palace wall.  It had heard the horn
of the car and would have stopped, but for the extraordinary
behaviour of an elephant.  The driver of the animal, a ridiculous
figure of a man in flapping nankeen trousers, an old tunic of
horizon blue and a scarlet cummerbund, apparently tried to check
it, but at the very moment that the car was about to pass the gate
it backed into the archway, scattering the Juventus guards.

There was just room for the car to slip through, and, as it swung
into the avenue, Dickson, through a crack in the blind, saw with
delight that his retreat was securely covered by the immense rump
of Aurunculeia.


IV


The last guns of the royal salute had fired, and the cheering of
the crowds had become like the murmur of a distant groundswell.
The entrance hall of the Palace was lined with the tall Juventus
guards, and up the alley between them came the new King-designate
of Evallonia.  There was now nothing of McTavish and less of Newsom
about Prince John.  The Juventus uniform well became his stalwart
figure, and he was no more the wandering royalty who for some years
had been the sport of fortune, but a man who had found again his
land and his people.  Yet in all the group, in the Prince and his
staff and in the wing commanders, there was a touch of hesitation,
almost of shyness, like schoolboys who had been catapulted suddenly
into an embarrassing glory.  The progress from Krovolin to Melina
had been one long blaze of triumph, for again and again the lines
of the escort had been broken by men and women who kissed the
Prince's stirrup, and it had rained garlands of flowers.  The
welcome of Melina had been more ceremonial, but not less rapturous,
and they had listened to that roar of many thousands, which,
whether it be meant in love or in hate, must make the heart stand
still.  All the group, even the Countess Araminta, had eyes
unnaturally bright and faces a little pale.

At the foot of the grand staircase stood Count Casimir and Jaikie.
Ashie translated for the latter the speeches that followed.  The
Count dropped on his knee.

"Sire," he said, "as the Chamberlain of the king your father I
welcome you home."

Prince John raised him and embraced him.

"But where," he asked, "is my beloved uncle?  I had hoped to be
welcomed by him above all others."  His eye caught Jaikie's for a
moment, and what the latter read in it was profound relief.

"Alas, Sire," said the Count, "His Royal Highness's health has
failed him.  Being an old man, the excitement of the last days was
too much for him.  A little more and your Majesty's joyful
restoration would have been clouded by tragedy.  The one hope was
that he should leave at once for the peace of his home.  He crossed
the frontier last night, and will complete his journey to France by
air.  He left with profound unwillingness, and he charged me to
convey to Your Majesty his sorrow that his age and the frailty of
his body should have prevented him from offering you in person his
assurances of eternal loyalty and affection."

The Countess's face had lost its pallor.  Once again she was the
Blood-red Rook, and it was on Jaikie that her eyes fell, eyes
questioning, commanding, suspicious.  It was to her rather than to
Prince John that he spoke, having imitated the Count and clumsily
dropped on one knee.

"I was faithful to your instructions, Sire," he said, "but a higher
Power has made them impossible.  I was assured that you would not
wish this happy occasion to be saddened by your kinsman's death."

He saw the Countess's lips compressed as if she checked with
difficulty some impetuous speech.  "True public-school," thought
Jaikie.  "She would like to make a scene, but she won't."

Prince John saw it too, and his manner dropped from the high
ceremonial to the familiar.

"You have done right," he said aloud in English.  "Man proposeth
and God disposeth.  Dear Uncle Hadrian--Heaven bless him wherever
he is!  And now, my lord Chamberlain, I hope you can give us
something to eat."



ENVOI


Down in the deep-cut glen it had been almost dark, for the wooded
hills rose steeply above the track.  But when the horses had
struggled up the last stony patch of moraine and reached the open
uplands the riders found a clear amber twilight.  And when they had
passed the cleft called the Wolf's Throat, they saw a great
prospect to the west of forest and mountain with the sun setting
between two peaks, a landscape still alight with delicate, fading
colours.  Overhead the evening star twinkled in a sky of palest
amethyst.  Involuntarily they halted.

Alison pointed to lights a mile down the farther slope.

"There are the cars with the baggage," she said, "and the grooms to
take the horses back.  We can get to our inn in an hour.  You are
safe, Dickson, for we are across the frontier.  Let's stop here for
supper, and have our last look at Evallonia."

Mr McCunn descended heavily from his horse.

"Ay, I'm safe," he said.  "And to-morrow there will be a telegram
from France saying I'm dead.  Well, that's the end of an auld
song."  He kicked vigorously to ease his cramped legs, and while
Dougal and Sir Archie took the food from the saddle-bags and the
two women spread a tablecloth on a flat rock, he looked down the
ravine to the dim purple hollow which was the country they had
left.

Jaikie's last word to Dougal at Melina had been an injunction to
make the end crown the work.  "Be sure and have a proper finish,"
he had told him.  "You know what he is.  Let him think he's in
desperate danger till he's over the border.  He would break his
heart if he thought that he was out of the game too soon."  So
Dougal had been insistent with Prince Odalchini.  "You owe Mr
McCunn more than you can ever repay, and it isn't much that I ask.
He must believe that Juventus is after him to bring him back.  Get
him off to-night, and keep up the pretence that it's deadly secret.
Horses--that's the thing that will please his romantic soul."

So Dickson had all day been secluded in the House of the Four
Winds, his meals had been brought him by Dougal, and Peter Wappit
had stood sentry outside his chamber door.  As the afternoon wore
on his earlier composure had been shot with restlessness, and he
watched the sun decline with an anxious eye.  But his spirits had
recovered when he found himself hoisted upon an aged mare of Prince
Odalchini's, which was warranted quiet, and saw the others booted
and spurred.  He had felt himself living a moment of high drama,
and to be embraced and kissed on both cheeks by Prince Odalchini
had seemed the right kind of farewell.  The ride through secluded
forest paths had been unpleasant, for he had only once been on a
horse in his life before, and Archie bustled them along to keep up
the illusion of a perilous flight.  Dougal, no horseman himself,
could do nothing to help him, but Alison rode by his side, and now
and again led his beast when he found it necessary to cling with
both hands to the saddle.

But once they were in the mountain cleft comfort had returned, for
now the pace was easy and he had leisure for his thoughts.  He
realised that for days he had been living with fear.  "You're not a
brave man," he told himself.  "The thing about you is that you're
too much of a coward to admit that you're afraid.  You let yourself
in for daft things because your imagination carries you away, and
then for weeks on end your knees knock together. . . .  But it's
worth it--you know it's worth it, you old epicurean," he added,
"for the sake of the relief when it's over."  He realised that he
was about to enjoy the peace of soul which he had known long ago at
Huntingtower on the morning after the fight.

But this time there was more than peace.  He cast an eye over his
shoulder down the wooded gorge--all was quiet--he had escaped from
his pursuers.  The great adventure had succeeded.  Far ahead beyond
the tree-tops he saw the cleft of the Wolf's Throat sharp against
the sunset.  In half an hour the frontier would be passed.  His
spirit was exalted.  He remembered something he had read--in
Stevenson, he thought--where a sedentary man had been ravished by a
dream of galloping through a midnight pass at the head of cavalry
with a burning valley behind him.  Well, he was a sedentary man,
and he was not dreaming an adventure, but in the heart of one.
Never had his wildest fancies envisaged anything like this.  He had
been a king, acclaimed by shouting mobs.  He had kept a throne warm
for a friend, and now he was vanishing into the darkness, an
honourable fugitive, a willing exile.  He was the first grocer in
all history that had been a Pretender to a Crown.  The clack of
hooves on stone, the jingling of bits, the echo of falling water
were like strong wine.  He did not sing aloud, for he was afraid of
alarming his horse, but he crooned to himself snatches of spirited
songs.  "March, march, Ettrick and Teviotdale" was one, and "Jock
o' Hazeldean" was another.

                               *****

Even on that hill-top the summer night was mild, and the fern was
warm, baked by long hours of sun.  The little company felt the
spell of the mountain quiet after a week of alarums, and ate their
supper in silence.  Dickson munched a sandwich with his face turned
east.  He was the first to speak.

"Jaikie's down there," he said.  "I wonder what will become of
Jaikie?  He's a quiet laddie, but he's the dour one when he's made
up his mind.  Then he's like a stone loosed from a catapult.  But
I've no fear for Jaikie now he has you to look after him."  He
turned to beam upon Alison and stroked her arm.

"He doesn't know what to do," said the girl.  "We talked a lot
about it in the summer.  He went on a walking-tour to think things
out and discover what he wanted most."

"Well, he has found that out," said Dickson genially.  "It's you,
Miss Alison.  Jaikie's my bairn, and now I've got another in
yourself.  I'm proud of my family.  Dougal there is already a force
for mischief in Europe."

Dougal grinned.  "I wonder what Mr Craw will say about all this.
He'll be over the moon about it, and he'll think that he and his
papers are chiefly responsible.  Humbug!  There are whiles when I'm
sick of my job.  They talk about the power of the Press, and it is
powerful enough in ordinary times.  The same with big finance.  But
let a thing like Juventus come along, and the Press and the stock
exchange are no more than penny whistles.  It's the Idea that wins
every time--the Idea with brains and guts behind it."

"Youth," said Janet.  "Yes, youth is the force in the world to-day,
for it isn't tired and it can hope.  But you have forgotten Mr
McCunn.  He made the success of Juventus possible, for he found it
its leader.  It's a pity the story can't be told, for he deserves a
statue in Melina as the Great Peacemaker."

"It's the same thing," said Dougal.  "He's youth."

"In two months' time I'll be sixty-three," said Dickson.

"What does that matter?  I tell you you're young.  Compared to you
Jaikie and I are old, done men.  And you're the most formidable
kind of youth, for you've humour, and that's what youth never has.
Jaikie has a little maybe, but nothing to you, and I haven't a
scrap myself.  I'll be a bigger man than Craw ever was, for I
haven't his failings.  And Jaikie will be a big man, too,
though I'm not just sure in what way.  But though I become a
multimillionaire and Jaikie a prime minister, we will neither of us
ever be half the man that Mr McCunn is.  It was a blessed day for
me when I first fell in with him."

"Deary me," said Dickson.  "That's a grand testimonial, but I don't
deserve it.  I have a fair business mind, and I try to apply it--
that's all.  It was the Gorbals Die-hards that made me.  Eight
years ago I retired from the shop, and I was a timid elderly body.
The Die-hards learned me not to be afraid."

"You don't know what fear is," said Dougal.

"And they made me feel young again."

"You could never be anything but young."

"You're wrong.  I'm both timid and old--the best you can say of me
is that, though I'm afraid, I'm never black-afraid, and though I'm
old, I'm not dead-old."

"That's the best that could be said about any mortal man," said
Archie solemnly.  "What are you going to do now?  After this game
of king-making, won't Carrick be a bit dull?"

"I'm going back to Blaweary," said Dickson, "to count my mercies,
for I'm a well man again.  I'm going to catch a wheen salmon, and
potter about my bits of fields, and read my books, and sit by my
fireside.  And to the last day of my life I'll be happy, thinking
of the grand things I've seen and the grand places I've been in.
Ay, and the grand friends I've known--the best of all."

"I think you are chiefly a poet," said Alison.

Dickson did not reply for a moment.  He looked at her tenderly and
seemed to be pondering a new truth.

"Me!" he said.  "I wish I was, but I could never string two verses
together."



THE END




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