Romance Island, by Zona Gale

Chapter 11

The End of the Evening

The Hall of Kings was very still as Olivia rose. She stood with one hand touching her veil’s hem, the other resting on the low, carved arm of the throne, and at the coming and going of her breath her jewels made the light lambent with the indeterminate colours of those strange, joyous banners floating far above her head.

Her voice was very sweet and a little tremulous — and it is the very grace of a woman’s courage that her voice tremble never so slightly. It seemed to St. George that he loved her a thousand times the more for that mere persuasive wavering of her words. And, while he listened to what he felt to be the prelude of her message, it seemed to him that he loved her another thousand times the more — what heavenly ease there is in this arithmetic of love — for the tender meaning which, upon her lips, her father’s name took on. When, speaking with simplicity and directness of the subject that lay uppermost in the minds of them all, she asked their utmost endeavour in their common grief, it was clear that what she said transcended whatever phenomena of mere experience lay between her and those who heard her, and they understood. The rapport was like that among those who hear one music. But St. George listened, and though his mind applauded, it ran on ahead to the terrifying future. This was all very well, but how was it to help her in the face of what was to happen in three days’ time?

“Therefore,” Olivia’s words touched tranquilly among the flying ends of his own thought, “I am come before you to make that sacrifice which my love for my father, and my grief and my anxiety demand. I count upon your support, as he would count upon it for me. I ask that one heart be in us all in this common sorrow. And I am come with the unalterable determination both to renounce my throne there”— never was anything more enchanting than the way those two words fell from her lips —“and to postpone my marriage”— there never was anything more profoundly disquieting than those two words in such a connection —“until such time as, by your effort and by my own, we may have news of my father, the king; and until, by your effort or by my own, the Hereditary Treasure shall be restored.”

So, serenely and with the most ingenuous confidence, did the daughter of the absent King Otho make disposition of the hour’s events. Amory leaned forward and feverishly polished his pince-nez.

“What do you think of that?” he put it, beneath his breath, “what do you think of that?”

St. George, watching that little figure — so adorably, almost pathetically little in its corner of the great throne — knew that he had not counted upon her in vain. Over there on the raised seats Mrs. Medora Hastings and Mr. Augustus Frothingham were looking on matters as helplessly as they would look at a thunder-storm or a circus procession, and they were taking things quite as seriously. But Olivia, in spite of the tragedy that the hour held for her, was giving the moment its exact value, guiltless of the feminine immorality of panic. To give a moment its due without that panic, is, St. George knew, a kind of genius, like creating beauty, and divining another’s meaning, and redeeming the spirit of a thing from its actuality. But by that time the arithmetic of his love was by way of being in too many figures to talk about. Which is the proper plight of love.

Every one had turned toward Prince Tabnit, and as St. George looked it smote him whimsically that that impassive profile was like the profiles upon the ancient coins which, almost any day, might be cast up by a passing hoof on the island mold. Indeed, St. George thought, one might almost have spent the prince’s profile at a fig-stall, and the vender would have jingled it among his silver and never have detected the cheat. But in the next moment the joyous mounting of his blood running riot in audacious whimsies was checked by the even voice of the prince himself.

“The gratitude and love of this people,” he said slowly, “are due to the daughter of its sovereign for what she has proposed. It is, however, to be remembered that by our ancient law the State and every satrapy therein shall receive no service, whether of blood or of bond, from an alien. The king himself could serve us only in that he was king. To his daughter as Princess of Yaque and wife of the Head of the House of the Litany, this service in the search for the sovereign and the Hereditary Treasure will be permitted, but she may serve us only from the throne.”

“Upon my soul, then that lets us out,” murmured Amory.

And St. George remembered miserably how, in that dingy house in McDougle Street, he and Olivia had listened once before to the recital of that law from the prince’s lips. If they had known how next they would hear it! If they had known then what that law would come to mean to her! What could she do now — what could even Olivia do now but assent?

She could do a great deal, it appeared. She could incline her head, with a bewitching droop of eyelids, and look up to meet the eyes of the prince with a serenity that was like a smile.

“In my country,” said Olivia gravely, “when anything special arises they frequently find that there is no law to cover it. It would seem to us”— it was as though the humility of that “us” took from her superb daring —“that this is a matter requiring the advice of the High Council. Therefore,” asked little Olivia gently, “will you not appoint, your Highness, a special session of the High Council to convene at noon tomorrow, to consider our proposition?”

There was a scarcely perceptible stir among the members of the High Council, for even the liberals were, it would seem, taken aback by a departure which they themselves had not instituted. Olivia, still in submission to tradition which she could not violate, had gained the time for which she hoped. With a grace that was like the conferring of a royal favour, Prince Tabnit appointed the meeting of the High Council for noon on the following day.

“May the gods permit the possible,” he added, and once more extended his hand to Olivia. This time, with lowered eyes, she gave him the tips of her fingers and, as the beckoning music swelled a delicate prelude, she stepped from the dais and suffered the prince to lead her toward the banquet hall.

Amory drew a long breath, and it came to St. George that if he, Amory, said anything about what he would give if he had a leased wire to the Sentinel Office, there would no longer be room on the island for them both. But Amory said no such thing. Instead, he looked at St. George in distinct hesitation.

“I say,” he brought out finally, “St. George, by Jove, do you know, it seems to me I’ve seen Miss Frothingham before. And how jolly beautiful she is,” he added almost reverently.

“Maybe it was when you were a Phoenician galley slave and she went by in a trireme,” offered St. George, trying to keep in sight the bright hair and the floating veil beyond the press of the crowd. Would he see Olivia and would he be able to speak with her, and did she know he was there, and would she be angry? Ah well, she could not possibly be angry, he thought; but with all this in his mind it was hardly reasonable of Amory to expect him to speculate on where Miss Frothingham might have been seen before. If it weren’t for this Balator now, St. George said to himself restlessly, and suddenly observed that Balator was expecting them to follow him. So, in the slow-moving throng, all soft hues and soft laughter, they made their way toward the colonnade that cut off the banquet room. And at every step St. George thought, “she has passed here — and here — and here,” and all the while, through the mighty open rafters in the conical roof, were to be seen those strange banners joyously floating in the delicate, alien light. The wine of the moment flowed in his veins, and he moved under strange banners, with a strange ecstasy in his heart.

Therefore, suddenly to hear Rollo’s voice at his shoulder came as a distinct shock.

“It’s one of them little brown ‘uns, sir,” Rollo announced in his best tone of mystery. “He’s settin’ upstairs, sir, an’ he’s all fer settin’ there till he sees you. He says it’s most important, sir.”

Amory heard.

“Shall I go up?” he asked eagerly; “I’d like a whiff of a pipe, anyway. It’ll be something to tie to.”

“Will you go?” asked St. George in undisguised gratitude. He was prepared to accept most risks rather than to lose sight of the star he was following.

With a word to Balator who explained where, on his return, he could find them, Amory turned with Rollo, and slipped through the crowd. Having reasons of his own for getting back to the hall below, Amory was prepared to speed well the interview with “the little brown ’un” who, he supposed, was Jarvo.

It was Jarvo — Jarvo, in a state of excitement, profound and incredible. The little man, from the annoyingly serene mode of mind in which he had left them, was become, for him, almost agitated. He sprang up from a divan in the great dressing-room of their apartment and approached Amory almost without greeting.

“Adôn, adôn,” he said earnestly, “you must leave the palace at once — at once. But to-night!”

Amory hunted for his pipe, found and lighted it, pressing a cigarette upon Jarvo who accepted, and held it, alight, in the palm of his hand.

“To-night,” he repeated, as if it were a game.

“Ah well, now,” said Amory reasonably, “why, Jarvo? And we so comfortable.”

The little man looked at Amory beseechingly.

“I know what I know,” he said earnestly, “many things will happen. There is danger about the palace to-night — danger it may be for you. I do not know all, but I come to warn you, and to warn the adôn who has been kind to us. You have brought us here when we were alone in America,” said Jarvo simply. “Akko and I will help you now. It was Akko who remembered the tower.”

Amory looked down at the bowl of his pipe, and shook his vestas in their box, and turned his eyes to Rollo, listening near by with an air of the most intense abstraction. Yes, all these things were real. They were all real, and here was he, Amory, smoking. And yet what was all this amazing talk about danger in the palace, and being warned, and remembering the tower?

“Anybody would think I was Crass, writing head-lines,” he told himself, and blew a cloud of smoke through which to look at Jarvo.

“What are you talking about?” he demanded sternly.

Jarvo had a little key in his hand, which he shook. The key was on a slender, carved ring, and it jingled. And when he offered it to him Amory abstractedly took it.

“See, adôn,” said Jarvo, “see! In the ilex grove on the road that we took last night there is a white tower — it may be that you have noticed it today. That tower is empty, and this is the key. There may be guards, but I shall know how to pass among them. You must come with me there to-night, the three. Even then it may be too late, I do not know. The gods will permit the possible. But this I know: the Royal Guard are of the lahnas, on whom the tax to make good the Hereditary Treasure will fall most heavily. They are filled with rage against your people — you and the king who is of your people. I do not know what they will do, but you are not safe for one moment in the palace. I come to warn you.”

Amory’s pipe went out. He sat pulling at it abstractedly, trying to fit together what St. George had told him of the Hereditary Treasure situation. And more than at any other time since his arrival on the island his heart leaped up at the prospect of promised adventure. What if St. George’s romantic apostasy were not, after all, to spoil the flavour of the kind of adventure for which he, Amory, had been hoping? He leaned eagerly forward.

“What would you suggest?” he said.

Jarvo’s eyes brightened. At once he sprang to his feet and stood before Amory, taking soft steps here and there as he talked, in movement graceful and tenuous as the greyhound of which he had reminded St. George.

“In the palace yard,” explained the little man rapidly, “is a motor which came from Melita, bringing guests for the ceremony of to-night. They will remain in the palace until after the marriage of the prince, two days hence. But the motor — that must go back to-night to Melita, adôn. I have made for myself permission to take it there. But you — the three — must go with me. At the tower in the ilex grove I shall leave you, and I shall return. Is this good?”

“Excellent. But what afterward?” demanded Amory. “Are we all to keep house in the tower?”

Jarvo shook his head, like a man who has thought of everything.

“Through tomorrow, yes,” he said, “but tomorrow night, when the dark falls —”

He bent forward and spoke softly.

“Did not the adôn wish to ascend the mountain?” he asked.

“Rather,” said Amory, “but how, good heavens?”

“I and Akko wish to ascend also; the prince has sent us no message, and we fear him,” said Jarvo simply. “There are on the island, adôn, six carriers, trained from birth to make the ascent. They are the sons of those whose duty it was to ascend, and they the sons for many generations. The trail is very steep, very perilous. Six were taught to go up with messages long before the knowledge of the wireless way, long before the flight of the airships. They are become a tradition of the island. It is with them that you must ascend — if you have no fear.”

“Fear!” cried Amory. “But these men, what of them? They are in the employ of the State. How do you know they will take us?”

Jarvo dropped his eyes.

“I and Akko,” he said quietly, “we are two of these six carriers, adôn.”

Then Amory leaped up, scattering the ashes of his pipe over the tiles. This, then, was what was the matter with the feet of the two men, about which they had all speculated on the deck of The Aloha, the feet trained from birth to make the ascent of the steep trail, feet become long, tenuous, almost prehensile  —

“It’s miracles, that’s what it is,” declared Amory solemnly. “How on earth did they come to take you to New York?” he could not forbear asking.

“The prince knew nothing of your country, adôn,” answered Jarvo simply. “He might have needed us to enter it.”

“To climb the custom-house,” said Amory abstractedly, and laughed out suddenly in sheer light-heartedness. Here was come to them an undertaking to which St. George himself must warm as he had warmed at the prospect of the voyage. To go up the mountain to the threshold of the king’s palace, where lived the daughter of the king.

Amory bent himself with a will to mastering each detail of the little man’s proposals. Rollo, they decided, was at once to make ready a few belongings in the oil-skins. Immediately after the banquet St. George and Amory were to mingle with the throng and leave the palace — no difficult matter in the press of the departures — and, on the side of the courtyard beneath the windows of the banquet room, Jarvo, already joined by Rollo, would be awaiting them in the motor bound for Melita.

“It sounds as if it couldn’t be done,” said Amory in intense enjoyment. “It’s bully.”

He paced up and down the room, talking it over. He folded his arms, and looked at the matter from all sides and wondered, as touching a story being “covered” for Chillingworth, whether he were leaving anything unthought.

“Chillingworth!” he said to himself in ecstasy. “Wouldn’t Chillingworth dote to idolatry upon this sight?”

Then Amory stood still, facing something that he had not seen before. He had come, in his walk, upon a little table set near the room’s entrance, and bearing a decanter and some cups.

“Hello,” he said, “Rollo, where did this come from?”

Rollo came forward, velvet steps, velvet pressing together of his hands, face expressionless as velvet too.

“A servant of ‘is ‘ighness, sir,” he said — Rollo did that now and then to let you know that his was the blood of valets —“left it some time ago, with the compliments of the prince. It looks like a good, nitzy Burgundy, sir,” added Rollo tolerantly, “though the man did say it was bottled in something B.C., sir, and if it was it’s most likely flat. You can’t trust them vintages much farther back than the French Revolootion, beggin’ your pardon, sir.”

Amory absently lifted the decanter, and then looked at it with some curiosity. The decanter was like a vase, ornamented with gold medallions covered with exquisite and precise engraving of great beauty and variety of design. Serpents, men contending with lions, sacred trees and apes were chased in the gold, and the little cups of sard were engraved in pomegranates and segments of fruit and pendent acorns, and were set with cones of cornelian. The cups were joined by a long cord of thick gold.

Amory set his hand to the little golden stopper, perhaps hermetically sealed, he thought idly, at about the time of the accidental discovery of glass itself by the Phoenicians. Amory was not imaginative, but as he thought of the possible age of the wine, there lay upon him that fascination communicable from any link between the present and the living past.

“Solomon and Sargon,” he said to himself, “the geese in the capitol, Marathon, Alexander, Carthage, the Norman conquest, Shakespeare and Miss Frothingham!”

He smiled and twisted the carven stopper.

“And the girl is alive,” he said almost wonderingly. “There has been so much Time in the world, and yet she is alive now. Down there in the banquet room.”

The odour of the contents of the vase, spicy, penetrating, delicious, crept out, and he breathed it gratefully. It was like no odour that he remembered. This was nothing like Rollo’s “good, nitzy Burgundy”— this was something infinitely more wonderful. And the odour — the odour was like a draught. And wasn’t this the wine of wines, he asked himself, to give them courage, exultation, the most superb daring when they started up that delectable mountain? St. George must know; he would think so too.

“Oh, I say,” said Amory to himself, “we must put some strength in Jarvo’s bones too — poor little brick!”

With that Amory drew the carven stopper, fitted in the little funnel that hung about the neck of the vase, poured a half-finger of the wine in each cup, and lifted one in his hand. But the mere odour was enough to make a man live ten lives, he thought, smiling at his own strange exultation. He must no more than touch it to his lips, for he wanted a clear head for what was coming.

“Come, Jarvo,” he cried gaily — was he shouting, he wondered, and wasn’t that what he was trying to do — to shout to make some far-away voice answer him? “Come and drink to the health of the prince. Long may he live, long may he live — without us!”

Amory had stood with his back to the little brown man while he poured the wine. As he turned, he lifted one cup to his lips and Rollo gravely presented the other to Jarvo. But with a bound that all but upset the velvet valet, the little man cleared the space between him and Amory and struck the cup from Amory’s hand.

“Adôn!” he cried terribly, “adôn! Do not drink — do not drink!”

The precious liquid splashed to the floor with the falling cup and ran red about the tiles. Instantly a powerful and delightful fragrance rose, and the thick fumes possessed the air. Amory threw out his hands blindly, caught dizzily at Rollo, and was half dragged by Jarvo to the open window.

“Oh, I say, sir —” burst out Rollo, more upset over the loss of the wine than he was alarmed at the occurrence. If it came to losing a good, nitzy Burgundy, Rollo knew what that meant.

“Adôn,” cried Jarvo, shaking Amory’s shoulders, “did you taste the liquor — tell me — the liquor — did you taste?”

Amory shook his head. Jarvo’s face and the hovering Rollo and the whole room were enveloped in mist, and the wine was hot on his lips where the cup had touched them. Yet while he stood there, with that permeating fragrance in the air, it came to him vaguely that he had never in his life known a more perfectly delightful moment. If this, he said to himself vaguely, was what they meant by wine in the old days, then so far as his own experience went, the best “nitzy” Burgundy was no more than a flabby, vin ordinaire beside it. Not that “flabby” was what he meant to call it, but that was the word that came. For he felt as if no less than six men were flowing in his veins, he summed it up to himself triumphantly.

But after all, the effect was only momentary. Almost as quickly as those strange fumes had arisen they were dissipated. And when presently Amory stood up unsteadily from the seat of the window, he could see clearly enough that Jarvo, with terrified eyes, was turning the vase in his hands.

“It is the same,” he was saying, “it must be the same. The gods have permitted the possible. I was here to tell you.”

“Tell me what?” demanded Amory with ungrateful irritation. “Is the stuff poison?” he asked, tottering in spite of himself as he crossed the floor toward him. But Jarvo turned his face, and upon it was such an incongruous terror that Amory involuntarily stood still.

“There are known to be two,” said Jarvo, holding the vase at arm’s length, “and the one is abundant life, if the draught is not over-measured. But the other is ten thousand times worse than death.”

“What do you mean?” cried Amory roughly. “What are you talking about? If the stuff is poison can’t you say so?”

Jarvo looked at him swiftly.

“These things are not spoken aloud in Yaque,” he said simply, and after that he held his peace. Amory threatened him and laughed at him, but Jarvo shook his head. At last Amory scoffed at the whole matter and stretched out his hand for the vase.

“Come,” he said, “at all events I’ll take it with me. It can’t be very much worse than the American liqueurs.”

“My word for it, sir, beggin’ your pardon,” said Rollo earnestly, “it’s a kind of what you might call med-i-eval Burgundy, sir.”

“It is not well,” said Jarvo, handing the vase with reluctance, “yet take it — but see that it touches no lips. I charge you that, adôn.”

Amory smiled and slipped the little vase in his coat pocket.

“It’s all right,” he said, “I won’t let it get away from me. I can find my legs now; I’ll go back down. Look sharp, Rollo. Be down there with the oil-skins. We put on this Tyrian purple stuff over the whole outfit,” he explained to Jarvo, “and I suppose, you know, that you can get both robes back here for us, if we escape in them?”

“Assuredly, adôn,” said Jarvo, “and you must escape without delay. This wine must mean that the prince, too, wishes you harm. Now let me be before you for a little, so that no one may see us together. I shall go now, immediately, to the motor — it is waiting already by the wall on the side of the courtyard opposite the windows of the banquet hall. I shall not fail you.”

“On the side of the courtyard opposite the windows of the banquet room,” repeated Amory. “Thanks, Jarvo. You’re all kinds of a good fellow.”

“Yes, adôn,” gravely assented the little man from the threshold.

Ten minutes later Amory followed. Already Rollo had packed the oil-skins, and Amory, his nerves steadied and the excitement of all that the night promised come upon him, hurried before him down the corridor, his thoughts divided in their allegiance between the delight of telling St. George what was toward, and the new and alluring delight of seeing Antoinette Frothingham near at hand in the banquet room. After all, he had had only the vaguest glimpse of a little figure in rose and silver, and he doubted if he could tell her from the princess, but for the interpreting gown.

Amory looked up with an irrepressible thrill of delight. He was just at that moment crossing the high white audience-hall, the anteroom to the Hall of Kings — he, Amory, in Tyrian purple garments. If anything were needed to complete the picture it would be to meet face to face, there in that big, lonely room, a little figure in rose and silver. It made his heart beat even to think of the possibilities of that situation. He skirted the Hall of Kings, and stood in one of the archways of the colonnade, facing the banquet room.

The banquet-table extended about three sides of the room, whose centre the guests faced. The middle space was left pure, unvexed by columns or furnishing. At the room’s far end Amory glimpsed the prince, at his side Olivia’s white veil, and her women about her; and, nearer, St. George and Balator in the place appointed. A guard came to conduct him, and he crossed to his seat and sank down with the look that could be made to mean whatever Amory meant.

“I expect to be served,” murmured the journalist in him, “by beautiful tame megatheriums, in sashes. And is that glyptodon salad?”

St. George’s eyes were upon the guests, so tranquilly seated, aware of the hour.

“I fancy,” he said in half-voice, “that presently we shall see little flames issuing from their hair, as there used from the hair of the ladies in Werner’s ballets.”

Then as Balator leaned toward him in his splendid leisure, fostering his charm, there came an amazing interruption.

The low key of the room was electrically raised by a cry, loosed from some other plight of being, like an odour of burning encroaching upon a garden.

“Why have you not waited?” some one called, and the voice — clear, equal, imperious — evened its way upon the air and reduced to itself the soft speech of the others. Silence fell upon them all, and their eyes were toward a figure standing in the open interval of the room — a figure whose aspect thrilled St. George with sudden, inexplicable emotion.

It was an old man, incredibly old, so that one thought first of his age. His beard and hair were not all grey, but he had grotesquely brown and wrinkled flesh. His stuff robe hung in straight folds about his singularly erect figure, and there was in his bearing the dignity of one who has understood all fine and gentle things, all things of quietude. But his look was vacant, as if the mind were asleep.

“Why have you not waited?” he repeated almost wonderingly. “Why have you not sent for me?” and his eyes questioned one and another, and rested on the face of the prince upon the dais, with Olivia by his side. The guard, whom in some fashion the strange old man had eluded, hurried from the borders of the room. But he broke from them and was off up half the length of the hall toward the prince’s seat.

“Do you not know?” he cried as he went, “I am Malakh. Read one another’s eyes and you will know. I am Malakh.”

As the guards closed about him he tottered and would have fallen save that they caught him roughly and pressed to a door, half carrying him, and he did not resist. But as speech was renewed another voice broke the murmur, and with great amazement St. George knew that this was Olivia’s voice.

“No,” she cried — but half as if she distrusted her own strange impulse, “let him stay — let him stay.”

St. George saw the prince’s look question her. He himself was unable to account for her unexpected intercession, and so, one would have said, was Olivia. She looked up at the prince almost fearfully, and down the length of the listening table, and back to the old man whose eyes were upon her face.

“He is an old man, your Highness,” St. George heard her saying, “let him stay.”

Prince Tabnit, who gave a curious impression of doing everything that he did in obedience to inertia rather than in its defiance, indicated some command to the puzzled guards, and they led old Malakh to a stone bench not far from the dais, and there he sank down, looking about him without surprise.

“It is well,” he said simply, “Malakh has come.”

While St. George was marveling — but not that the old man spoke the English, for in Yaque it was not surprising to find the very madmen speaking one’s own tongue — Balator explained the man.

“He is a poor mad creature,” Balator said. “He walks the streets of Med saying ‘Melek, Melek,’ which is to say, ‘king,’ and so he is seeking the king. But he is mad, and they say that he always weeps, and therefore they pretend to believe that he says ‘Malakh,’ which is to say ‘salt.’ And they call him that for his tears. Doubtless the princess does not understand. Her Highness has a tender heart.”

St. George was silent. The incident was trivial, but Olivia had never seemed so near.

Sometimes in the world of commonplace there comes an extreme hour which one afterward remembers with “Could that have been I? But could it have been I who did that?” And one finds it in one’s heart to be certain that it was not one’s self, but some one else — some one very near, some one who is always sharing one’s own consciousness and inexplicably mixing with one’s moments. “Perhaps,” St. George would have said, “there is some such person who is nearly, but not quite, I myself. And if there is, it was he and not I who was at that banquet!” It was one of the hours which seem to have been made with no echo. It was; and then passed into other ways, and one remembered only a brightness. For example, St. George listened to what Balator said, and he heard with utmost understanding, and with the frequent pleasure of wonder, and was now and then exquisitely amused as one is amused in dreams. But even as he listened, if he tried to remember the last thing that was said, and the next to the last thing, he found that these had escaped him; and as he rose from the table he could not recall ten words that had been spoken. It was as if the some one very near, who is always sharing one’s consciousness and inexplicably mixing with one’s moments, had taken St. George’s part at the banquet while he, himself, sat there in the rôle of his own outer consciousness. But neither he nor that hypothetical “some one else,” who was also he, lost for one instant the heavenly knowledge that Olivia was up there at the head of the table.

Amory, in spite of diplomatic effort, had not succeeded in imparting to St. George anything of his talk with Jarvo. Balator was too near, and the place was somehow too generally attentive to permit a secret word. So, as they rose from the table, St. George was still in ignorance of what was toward and knew nothing of either the Ilex Tower or the possibilities of the morrow. He had only one thought, and that was to speak with Olivia, to let her know that he was there on the island, near her, ready to serve her — ah well, chiefly, he did not disguise from himself, what he wanted was to look at her and to hear her speak to him. But Amory had depended on the confusion of the rising to communicate the great news, and to tell about Jarvo, waiting in a motor out there in the palace courtyard, by the wall on the side opposite the windows of the banquet room. In an auspicious moment Amory looked warily about, thrilling with premonition of his friend’s enthusiasm.

Before he could speak, St. George uttered a startled exclamation, caught at Amory’s arm, sprang forward, and was off up the long room, dragging Amory with him.

About the dais there was suddenly an appalling confusion. Push of feet, murmurs, a cry and, visible over the heads between, a glistening of gold uniforms closing about the throne seats, flashing back to the long, open windows, disappearing against the night . . .

“What is it?” cried Amory as he ran. “What is it?”

“Quick,” said St. George only, “I don’t know. They’ve gone with her.”

Amory did not understand, but he saw that Olivia’s seat was empty; and when he swept the heads for her white veil, it was not there.

“Who has?” he said.

St. George swerved to the side of the room toward the windows, and old Malakh stood there, crying out and pointing.

“The guard, I think,” St. George answered, and was over the low sill of a window, running headlong across the courtyard, Amory behind him. “There they go,” St. George cried. “Good God, what are we to do? There they go.”

Amory looked. Down a side avenue — one of those tunnels of shadow that taught the necessity of mystery — a great motor car was speeding, and in the dimness the two men could see the white of Olivia’s floating veil.

At this, Amory wheeled and searched the length of wall across the yard. If only — if only  —

There on the side of the courtyard opposite the windows of the banquet room stood the motor that was that night to go back to Melita. Bolt upright on the seat was Jarvo, and climbing in the tonneau, with his neck stretched toward the confusion of the palace, was Rollo. Jarvo saw Amory, who beckoned; and in an instant the car was beside them and the two men were over the back of the tonneau in a flash.

“That way,” cried St. George, with no time to waste on the miracle of Jarvo’s appearance, “that way — there. Where you see the white.”

At a touch the motor plunged away into the fragrant darkness. Amory looked back. Figures crowded the windows of the palace, and streamed from the banquet hall into the courtyard. Men hurried through the hall, and there was clamour of voices, and in the honey-coloured air the great bulk of the palace towered like a faithless sentinel, the alien banners in nameless colours sending streamers into the moon-lit upper spaces.

On before, down nebulous ways, went the whiteness of the floating veil.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 22:43