The Princess Elopes (Chapter V, page 1 of 6)


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That same evening the grand duke's valet knocked on the door leading
into the princess' apartments, and when the door opened he gravely
announced that his serene Highness desired to speak to the Princess
Hildegarde. It was a command. For some reason, known best to herself,
the princess chose to obey it.

"Say that I shall be there presently," she said, dismissing the valet.

As she entered her uncle's study--so called because of its dust-laden
bookshelves, though the duke sometimes disturbed their contents to
steady the leg of an unbalanced chair or table--he laid down his pipe
and dismissed his small company of card-players.

"I did not expect to see you so soon," he began. "A woman's curiosity
sometimes has its value. It takes little to arouse it, but a great
deal to allay it."

"You have not summoned me to make smart speeches, simply because I have
been educated up to them?"--truculently.

"No. I have not summoned you to talk smart, a word much in evidence in
Barscheit since your return from England. For once I am going to use a
woman's prerogative. I have changed my mind."

The Princess Hildegarde trembled with delight. She could put but one
meaning to his words.

"The marriage will not take place next month."

"Uncle!"--rapturously.

"Wait a moment,"--grimly. "It shall take place next week."

"I warn you not to force me to the altar," cried the girl, trembling
this time with a cold fury.

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