Arms and the Woman (Chapter 8, page 1 of 14)


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Chapter 8

As I came along the road, the dust of which had been laid that
afternoon by an odorous summer rain, the principal thing which struck
my eyes was the quaintness and unquestioned age of the old inn. It was
a relic of the days when feudal lords still warred with one another,
and the united kingdom was undreamt of. It looked to be 300 years old,
and might have been more. From time to time it had undergone various
repairs, as shown by the new stone and signs of modern masonry, the
slate peeping out among the moss-covered tiles. It sat back from the
highway, and was surrounded by thick rows of untrimmed hedges, and was
partly concealed from view by oaks and chestnuts. The gardens were
full of roses all in bloom, and their perfumes hung heavy on the moist
air. And within a stone's throw of the rear the Danube noiselessly
slid along its green banks. All I knew about the inn was that it had
been by a whim of nature the birthplace of that beautiful, erratic and
irresponsible young person, her Serene Highness the Princess
Hildegarde. It was here I thought to find Hillars; though it was idle
curiosity as much as anything which led me to the place.

The village was five miles below. I could see the turrets of the
castle which belonged to the Princess. She was very wealthy, and owned
as many as three strongholds in the petty principality of Hohenphalia.
Capricious indeed must have been the woman who was ready to relinquish
them for freedom.

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