Read CHAPTER XVIII of The Princess Virginia , free online book, by C. N. Williamson and A. M. Williamson, on


It was a jaeger clad in green who opened the door of the hunting lodge, and gazed, apparently without recognition, at the two men standing in the dark embrasure of the porch.

“We wish to see his Royal Highness, your master,” said the Chancellor, taking the initiative, as he knew the Emperor would wish him to do.

“His Royal Highness is not at home, sir,” replied the jaeger.

Leopold’s eyes lightened as he threw a glance of sarcastic meaning at his companion. But Iron Heart was undaunted. He knew very well now, that this was only a prelude to the drama which would follow; and though he had suffered a sharp pang of anxiety at first, he saw that his Royal friend was playing with commendable realism. Naturally, when beautiful young actresses ventured into the forest unchaperoned, to dine with fascinating princes, the least that such favored gentlemen could do was to be “not at home” to an intrusive public.

“You are mistaken,” insisted the Chancellor, “his Royal Highness is at home, and will receive us. It will be better for you to admit us without further delay.”

Under the domination of those eyes which could quell a turbulent Reichstag, the jaeger weakened, as his master had doubtless expected him to do after the first resistance.

“It may be I have made a mistake, sir,” he stammered, “though I do not think so. If you will have the kindness to walk in and wait for a few minutes until I can inquire whether his Royal Highness has come home, or will come home ”

“That is not necessary,” said the Chancellor. “His Royal Highness dines here this evening. We will go with you to the door of the dining-room, which you will open for us, and announce that two gentlemen wish to see him.”

With this, all uncertainty in the mind of the jaeger was swept away. He knew his duty and determined to stand by it; and the Chancellor saw that, if the master had given instructions meaning them to be over-ridden, at least the servant was sincere. He put himself in the doorway, and looked an obstacle difficult to dislodge.

“That is impossible, sir!” he exclaimed. “I have had my orders, which are that his Royal Highness is not at home to-night, and until I know whether or not these orders are to stand, nobody, not if it were the Emperor, should force his way.”

“Fool, those orders are not for us; and it is the Emperor who will go in.” With a step aside, the Chancellor let the light from the hanging lamp in the hall shine full upon Leopold’s face, hitherto masked in shadow.

His boast forgotten, the jaeger uttered a cry of dismay, and with a sudden failing of the knees, he moved, and left the doorway free.

“Your Majesty!” he faltered. “I did not see I could not know. Most humbly I beg your Majesty’s gracious pardon. If your Majesty will but hold me blameless with my master ”

“Never mind yourself, and never mind your master,” broke in the Chancellor. “Open that door at the end of the hall, and announce the Emperor and Count von Breitstein.”

The unfortunate jaeger, approaching a state of collapse, obeyed. The door of the dining-room, which Leopold knew of old, was thrown open, and a quavering voice heralded “His Imperial Majesty the Emperor, and the Herr Chancellor Count von Breitstein.”

The scene disclosed was as unreal to Leopold’s eyes as a painted picture; the walls of Pompeian red; the gold candelabra; the polished floor, spread with the glimmering fur of Polar bears; and in the center a flower-decked table lit with pink-shaded lights, and sparkling with gold and crystal; springing up from a chair which faced the door, a young man in evening dress; sitting motionless, her back half turned, a slender girl in bridal white.

At sight of her the Emperor stopped on the threshold. All the blood in his body seemed rushing to his head, then surging back upon his heart.

The impossible had happened.