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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGraustark - Chapter 6. Graustark
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Graustark - Chapter 6. Graustark Post by :Hans_Klein Category :Long Stories Author :George Barr Mccutcheon Date :May 2012 Read :1590

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Graustark - Chapter 6. Graustark


Two weeks later Grenfall Lorry was landed and enjoying the sensations, the delights of that wonderful world called by the name of Paris. The second day after his arrival he met a Harvard man of his time on the street. Harry Anguish had been a pseudo art student for two years. When at college he was a hail-fellow-well-met, a leader in athletics and in matters upon which faculties frown. He and Lorry were warm friends, although utterly unlike in temperament; to know either of these men was to like him; between the two one found all that was admirable and interesting in man. The faults and virtues of each were along such different lines that they balanced perfectly when lumped upon the scale of personal estimation. Their unexpected meeting in Paris, was as exhilarating pleasure to both, and for the next week or so they were inseparable. Together they sipped absinthe at the cafes and strolled into the theaters, the opera, the dance halls and the homes of some of Anguish's friends, French and American.

Lorry did not speak to his friend of Graustark until nearly two weeks after his arrival in the city. He had discussed with himself the advisability of revealing his plans to Anguish, fearing the latter's ridicule with all the cowardice of a man who knows that scoffing is, in a large measure, justifiable. Growing impatient to begin the search for the unheard-of country, its capital and at least one of its inhabitants, he was at last compelled to inform Anguish, to a certain extent, of his plans for the future. He began by telling him of his intention to take a run over toward Vienna, Buda-Pesth and some of the Eastern cities, expecting to be gone a couple of months. To his surprise and consternation, Anguish enthusiastically volunteered to take the trip with him, having had the same project in view for nearly a year.

There was nothing left for Lorry but to make a clean breast of it, which he did shamefacedly, expecting the laughter and raillery of his light-hearted friend as payment for his confidence. Instead, however, Anguish, who possessed a lively and romantic nature, was charmed by the story and proclaimed it to be the most delightful adventure that had ever happened outside of a story-book.

"Tell me all about her," he urged, his eyes sparkling with boyish enthusiasm. And Lorry proceeded to give him a personal description of the mysterious beauty, introducing him, in the same manner, to the distinguished uncle and aunt, adding all those details which had confounded and upset him during his own investigations.

"This is rich!" exclaimed Anguish. "Beats any novel written, I declare. Begad, old man, I don't blame you for hunting down this wonderful bit of femininity. With a curiosity and an admiration that had been sharpened so keenly as yours, I'd go to the end of the world myself to have them satisfied."

"I may be able to satisfy but one--curiosity. And maybe not that. But who knows of Graustark?"

"Don't give up before you've tried. If these people live in such a place, why, it is to be found, of course. Any railroad guide-book can locate this land of mystery. There are so many infernal little kingdoms and principalities over here that it would take a lifetime to get 'em all straightened out in one's head. To-morrow morning we will go to one of the big railway-stations and make inquiries. We'll locate Graustark and then we'll go over and pluck the flower that grows there. All you need, my boy, is a manager. I'll do the arranging, and your little act will be the plucking."

"Easier said than done."

"She threw a kiss to you, didn't she?"

"Certainly, but, confound it, that was because she never expected to see me again."

"Same reason why you threw a kiss to her, I suppose?"

"I know why; I wasn't accountable."

"Well, if she did it any more wittingly than you did, she is accountable, and I'd hunt her up and demand an explanation."

Lorry laughed at his apparent fervor, but was glad that he had confided in his energetic countryman. Two heads were better than one, and he was forced to admit to himself that he rather liked the idea of company in the undertaking. Not that he expected to encounter any particular difficulty, but that he saw a strange loneliness ahead. Therefore he welcomed his friend's avowed intention to accompany him to Edelweiss as a relief instead of an annoyance. Until late in the night they discussed the coming trip, Anguish finally startling him with a question, just as he was stretching himself preparatory to the walk to his hotel.

"What are you going to do with her after you find her, Gren, old man?"

Grenfall's brow puckered and he brought himself up with a jerk, puzzled uncertainty expressing itself in his posture as well as in his face.

"I'll think about that after I have found her," he replied.

"Think you'll marry her?" persisted the other.

"How do I knew?" exclaimed the woman hunter, savagely.

"Oh, of course you don't know--how could you?" apologized Anguish. "Maybe she won't have you--maybe she is married--all sorts of contingencies, you know. But, if you'll pardon my inquisitiveness, I'd like to ask why you are making this wild goose chase half around the world? just to have another look at her?"

"You asked me if I thought--" Here he stopped.

"I take it for granted, then, that you'd like to. Well, I'm glad that I've got something definite on which to base operations. The one object of our endeavors, from now on, is to exchange Guggenslocker for Lorry--certainly no robbery. A charity, I should say. Good-night! See you in the morning."

The next morning the two friends took a cab to several railway stations and inquired about Graustark and Edelweiss.

"She was stringing you, old man," said Anguish, after they had turned away from the third station. He spoke commiseratingly, as he really felt sorry.

"No!" exclaimed Lorry. "She told me the truth. There is a Graustark and she lives there. I'll stake my life on those eyes of hers."

"Are you sure she said it was in Europe?" asked Harry, looking up and down the street as if he would not have been surprised to see her in Paris. In his heart he believed that she and her precious relatives had deceived old Gren. Perhaps their home was in Paris, and nowhere else. But for Lorry's positiveness he would have laughed heartily at the other's simple credulity, or branded him a dolt, the victim of some merry actress's whim. Still, he was forced to admit, he was not in a position to see matters as they appeared, and was charitable enough to bide his time and to humor the faith that was leading them from place to place in the effort to find a land that they knew nothing about. Lorry seemed so sure, so positive, that he was loath to see his dream dispelled, his ideal shattered. There was certainly no Graustark; neither had the Guggenslockers sailed on the Wilhelm, all apparent evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. Lorry had been in a delirium and had imagined he saw her on the ship. If there, why was not her name in the list? But that problem tortured the sanguine searcher himself.

At last, in despair, after a fruitless search of two days, Lorry was willing to submit. With the perverseness common to half-defeated fighters, Anguish at once protested, forgetting that he had sought to dissuade his friend the day before.

"We'll go to the library of Paris and take a look through the books and maps," he said. "Or, better still, let us go to the post office. There! Why have we not thought of that? What there is of Graustark they'll know in the postal service."

Together they visited the chief post office, where, after being directed to various deputies and clerks, they at length found the department in which the information was obtainable. Inside of five minutes they were in possession of facts that vindicated Miss Guggenslocker, lifted Lorry to the seventh heaven, and put Mr. Anguish into an agony of impatience. Graustark was a small principality away off to the east, and Edelweiss was a city of some seventy-five thousand inhabitants, according to the postal guide-book.

The Americans could learn no more there, so they went to Baedecker's office. Here they found a great map, and, after a diligent and almost microscopic search, succeeded in discovering the principality of Graustark. Then they looked at each other in dismay.

"It's a devil of a distance to that little red blot on the map," mused Lorry, pulling his nose reflectively. "What an outlandish place for a girl like her to live in," he continued. "And that sweet-faced old lady and noble Uncle Caspar! Ye gods! one would think barbarians existed there and not such people as the Guggenslockers, refined, cultivated smart, rich. I'm more interested than ever in the place."

"So am I! I'm willing and ready to make the trip, old man, if you are still of a mind. It's a lark, and, besides, she may not be the only pretty and gracious girl there. We've had bard work to find it on the map, let's not stop till we see Edelweiss on the earth itself."

They made hasty preparations for the journey. Anguish, romantic and full of adventure, advised the purchase of a pair of pistols and a knife apiece, maintaining that, as they were going into an unknown and mountainous region, they should be prepared for brigands and other elements of danger. Lorry pooh-poohed the suggestion of brigands, but indulged his mood by buying some ugly-looking revolvers and inviting the prospect of something really thrilling in the way of an adventure. With their traps they were soon whirling through France, bound for a certain great city, on the road to Edelweiss, one filled with excitement, eagerness and boyish zeal, the other harrassed by the sombre fear that a grave disappointment was in store for him. Through the glamour and the picturesqueness of the adventure there always crept the unconquerable feeling that he was on a fool's errand, that he was committing a deed so weak and brainless that it was sure to make him a veritable laughing-stock when it became known. After all, who was Miss Guggenslocker--brewer, baker, gardener or sausage-maker.

Traveling, of course, was pleasant at this time of the year, and the two Americans saw much that interested them along the way. Their French, especially Anguish's, was of great value to them, for they found occasion to use it at all times and in all places. Both spoke German fairly well, and took every opportunity to brush up in that language, Lorry remembering that the Guggenslockers used many expressions that showed a preference for the Teutonic. The blithe Anguish, confident and in high feather, was heart and soul in the odd expedition of love, and talked incessantly of their reception by the far-away hostess, their impressions and the final result. His camera and sketching materials were packed away with his traps. It was his avowed intention to immortalize the trip by means of plate, palate and brush.

At the end of two days they reached a certain large city,--the first change, and then seven hundred miles to another. The distance from this point to the capital of Graustark was two hundred miles or more, chiefly through mountainous lands. Somewhat elated by the cheerful information there received, they resumed the journey to Edelweiss, the city of vale, slope and park,--summer, fall and winter. Changing cars at the end of the second day out, they sat back in the dusty seats of their carriage and sighed with relief.

"Unless we jump the track, this train will land us in the city we are looking for," said Anguish, stretching out his legs comfortably. "I'll admit it has been a tiresome journey, and I'll be glad when we can step into a decent hotel, have a rub, and feel like white men once more. I am beginning to feel like these dirty Slavs and Huns we saw 'way back there."

"There's one thing certain," said Lorry, looking out of the window. "The people and the habitations are different and the whole world seems changed since we left that station. Look at those fellows on horseback over there."

"What did I tell you about brigands and robbers!" exclaimed Anguish. "If those fellows are not bandits I'll lose faith in every novel I ever read."

The train rolled slowly past three mounted men whose steeds stood like statues upon a little knoll to the right of the track, men and beasts engaged in silent contemplation of the cars. The men, picturesquely attired and looking fierce, carrying long rifles, certainly bore an aspect that suggested the brigand. When the guard entered the carriage Anguish asked in German for some information concerning the riders.

"Dey're frontier police-guards," responded the man in English, smiling at their astonishment. Both Americans arose and shook hands with him.

"By George, it's good to hear a man talk white man's language," cried Anguish.

"How do you come to be holding a job on this road? An Englishman?" demanded Lorry. He looked anything but English.

"I'm not an Englishman," said the guard, flushing slightly. "My name's Sitzky, and I'm an American, sir."

"An American!" exclaimed Lorry. Sitzky grew loquacious.

"Sure! I used to be a sailor on a United States man-o'war. A couple of years ago I got into trouble down at Constantinople and had to get out of de service. After dat I drifted up dis way and went to railroadin'." He hadn't exactly the manner of a man-of. warsman.

"How long have you been on this road?" asked Grenfall.

"'Bout a year, I should t'ink. Been on dis branch only two months, dough."

"Are you pretty well acquainted in Edelweiss?''

"Oh, I run in dere every other day--in an' out ag'in. It's a fine place,--purtiest you ever saw in your life. The town runs right up the mountain to the tip-top where the monks are--clear up in d' clouds. Dey say it snows up dere almost all d' time."

Later on, from the loquacious guard, the two Americans learned quite a good bit about the country and city to which they were going. His knowledge was somewhat limited along certain lines, but quite clear as to others.

'Dis Graustark, 's fer as I know, is eeder a sort o' state or somet'ing belongin' to de Umpire, governed by it's own rulers. Edelweiss is de capital, d' big guns of d' land lives dere. I've walked out and saw d' castle where d' Princess and d' royalty hangs out. D' people speak a language of deir own, and I can't get next to a t'ink dey say. But once in a while you find some guy dat talks French or German. Dey've got a little standin' army of two t'ree t'ousand men an' dey've got de hottest uniforms you ever did see--red an' black an' gold. I don't see why d' United Rates can't get up somethin' foxy fer her soldiers to wear. Had a war over here not long ago, I understand--somethin' like ten or fifteen years ago. Dere's another little country up north of Graustark, and dey got in a wrangle 'bout somethin', and dey tell me in Edelweiss dat for 'bout a year dey fought like Sam Patch."

"Which was victorious?" demanded Lorry, deeply interested.

"I'm not sure. To hear d' Edelweiss people talk you'd t'ink dey licked d' daylights out of d' other slobs, but somehow I got next to d' fact dat dem other fellows captured de city an' went after a slashin' big war indemnity. I don't know much 'bout it, an' maybe I'm clear off but I t'ink d' Graustark army was trashed. Every t'ing is prosperous now, dough, an' you'd never know dere'd been a war. It's d'most peaceable town I ever saw."

"Did you ever hear of the Guggenslockers?" asked the irrepressible Anguish, and Lorry felt like kicking him.

"In Edelweiss? Never did. Friends of yours?"

"Acquaintances," interposed Lorry, hastily, frowning at Anguish.

"You won't have any trouble findin' 'em if dere anybody at all," said Sitzky, easily. "D' hotel people ought to be able to tell you all 'bout 'em."

"By the way, what is the best hotel there?" asked Anguish.

"Dere's d' Burnowentz, one block north of d' depot." The travelers looked at one another and smiled, Sitzky observing the action. "Oh," he said, pleasantly, "dere's a swell joint uptown called d' Regengetz. It's too steep fer me, but maybe you gents can stand it. It you'll hang around d' depot fer a little while after we get in I'll steer you up dere."

"We'll make it worth your while, Sitzky," said Lorry.

"Never mind dat, now. Americans ought to stick together, no matter where dey are. We'll have a drink an' 'at's all, just to show we're fellow countrymen."

"We'll have several drinks, and we'll eat and drink tonight at the 'swell joint' you talk about," said Anguish.

"We may drink dere, but I'll not eat dere. Dey wouldn't let a railroad guard inside de feedin' pen. Why, nothin' but royal guys eat dere when dey're down town shoppin' or exposin' demselves to public gaze."

True to his word, when they reached Edelweiss late that afternoon Sitzky, their friend of uncertain origin, hurriedly finished his work and joined the travelers in the station. Lorry and Anguish were deeply interested in all they saw, the strange people, the queer buildings, the odd costumes and the air of antiquity that prevailed. Once upon the narrow, clean street they saw that Edelweiss was truly a city of the mountain-side. They had expected something wonderful, but were not prepared for what they found. The city actually ran up into the clouds. There was something so grand, so improbable, so unusual in the spectacle confronting them that they stared like children, aghast and stupefied. Each had the startling impression that a great human-dotted mountain was falling over upon his head; it was impossible to subdue the sensation of dizziness that the toppling town inspired.

"I know how you feel," observed Sitzky, laughing. "I was just d' same at first. Tomorrow you walk a little ways up d' side of d' mountain an' you'll see how much of d' city dere is on level ground down here. Dem buildings up dere ain't more'n one-fiftieth part of d'town. Dey're mostly summer homes. It gets hot as blazes down here in d' valley in d' middle of d' summer and d' rich ones move up d' mountain."

"How in thunder do people get up to those houses?" demanded Anguish.

"Mules," answered Sitzky, specifically. "Say! See dat little old feller comin' on horseback--wid d' white uniform? Well, dat's de chief of police, an' d' fellers behind him are police guards. 'At's old Dangloss himself. He's a peach, dey say."

A short, grizzly-faced man, attired in a white uniform with red trimmings, followed by three men similarly garbed, rode by, going in the direction of the passenger station. Dangloss, as Sitzky had called him, was quite small in stature, rather stout, gray-bearded and eagle-nosed. His face was keen and red, and not at all the kind to invite familiarity. As he passed them the railroad guard of American citizenship touched his cap and the two travelers bowed, whereupon the chief of police gave them a most profound salutation, fairly sweeping his saddleskirts with his white cap.

"Polite old codger," observed Anguish.

"His company manners. Just let him get you in d' sweatbox, if you t'ink he's polite."

"Ever been there?"

"Well," a little confusedly, "I pasted a Graustark baggage-smasher down in d' yards two weeks ago, an' dey had me up. I proved d' feller insulted a lady, an' old Dangloss let me off, sayin' I'd ought to have a medal. Dese guys are great on gallantry when ladies is concerned. If it hadn't been fer dat, I'd be in d' lock-up now. An' say, you ought to see d' lock-up! It's a tower, wid dungeons an' all dat sort of t'ing. A man couldn't no more get out 'n' he could fly up to d' monastery. Dey're great on law an' order here, too. D' Princess has issued strictest kind of rules an' everybody has to live up to 'em like as if dey was real gospel. I t'ought I'd put you next, gents, so's you wouldn't be doin' anyt'ing crooked here."

"Thanks," said Lorry, drily. "We shall try to conduct ourselves discreetly in the city."

Probably a quarter mile farther down the narrow, level street they came to the bazaars, the gaudy stores, and then the hotel. It was truly a hostelry to inspire respect and admiration in the mind of such as Sitzky, for it was huge and well equipped with the modern appointments. As soon as the two Americans had been given their rooms, they sent for their luggage. Then they went out to the broad piazza, with its columns and marble balustrades, and looked for Sitzky, remembering their invitation to drink. The guard had refused to enter the hotel with them, urging them to allow him to remain on the piazza. He was not there when they returned, but they soon saw him. On the sidewalk he was arguing with a white-uniformed police guard, and they realized that he had been ejected from sacred precincts.

They promptly rescued him from the officer, who bowed and strode away as soon as they interceded.

"Dese fellers is slick enough to see you are swells and I'm not," said Sitzky, not a bit annoyed by his encounter. "I'll bet my head 'at inside ten minutes old Dangloss will know who you are, where you come from an' what you're doin' here."

"I'll bet fifty heads he won't find out what we're doing here," grinned Anguish, looking at Lorry. "Well, let's hunt up the thirst department."

They found the little apartment in which drinks were served at tables, and before they said good-by to Sitzky in front of the hotel, a half hour later, that worthy was in exceeding good humor and very much flushed in the face. He said he would be back in two days, and if they needed him for any purpose whatever, they could reach him by a note at the railway station."

"Funny how you run across an American in every nook and corner of the world," mused Lorry, as they watched the stocky ex-man-o'warsman stroll off towards his hotel.

"If we can run across the Guggenslockers as easily, we'll be in luck. When shall we begin the hunt? Tonight?"

"We can make a few inquiries concerning them. They certainly are people of importance here."

"I don't see the name on any of the brewery signs around town," observed Anguish, consolingly. "There's evidently no Guggenslocker here."

They strolled through the streets near the hotel until after six o'clock, wondering at the quaint architecture, the pretty gardens and the pastoral atmosphere that enveloped the city. Everybody was busy, contented, quiet and happy. There was no bustle or strife, no rush, no beggars. At six they saw hundreds of workingmen on the streets, going to their homes; shops were closed and there came to their ears the distant boom of cannon, evidently fired from different points of the compass and from the highland as well as the lowland.

"The toy army is shooting off the good-night guns," speculated Anguish. "I suppose everybody goes to bed now.

"Or to dinner," substituted Lorry, and they returned to the Regengetx. The dining hall was spacious and beautiful, a mixture of the oriental and the mediaeval. It rapidly filled.

"Who the dickens can all these people be? They look well," Anguish whispered, as if he feared their nearest neighbors might understand his English.

"They are unquestionably of the class in which we must expect to find the Guggenslockers."

Before the meal was over the two strangers saw that they were attracting a great deal of attention from the other guests of the house. The women, as well as the men, were eyeing them and commenting quite freely, it was easy to see. These two handsome, smooth-faced young Americans were as men from another world, so utterly unlike their companions were they in personal appearance. They were taller, broader and more powerfully built than the swarthy-faced men about them, and it was no wonder that the women allowed admiration to show in their eyes. Toward the end of the dinner several officers came in, and the Americans took particular pains to study them. They were cleanly-built fellows, about medium height, wiry and active. As a class, the men appeared to average five feet seven inches in height, some a little taller, some a little shorter. The two strangers were over six feet tall, broad-shouldered and athletic. They looked like giants among these Graustark men.

"They're not very big, but they look as if they'd be nasty in a scrap," observed Anguish, unconsciously throwing out his chest.

"Strong as wildcats, I'll wager. The women are perfect, though. Have you ever seen a smarter set of women, Harry?"

"Never, never! A paradise of pretty women. I believe I'll take out naturalization papers."

When the two strangers left the dining-room they were conscious that every eye in the place was upon them. They drew themselves to their full height and strode between the tables toward the door, feeling that as they were on exhibition they ought to appear to the best advantage. During the evening they heard frequent allusions to "the Americans," but could not understand what was said. The hotel men were more than obsequious; the military men and citizens were exceedingly deferential; the women who strolled on the piazza or in the great garden back of the hotel were discreetly curious.

"We seem to be the whole show here, Gren," said Anguish, as they sat down at one of the tables in the garden.

"I guess Americans are rare."

"I've found one fellow who can speak German and French, and not one, except our guard who can talk English. That clerk talks German fairly well. I never heard such a language as these other people use. Say, old man, we'd better make inquiry about our friends to-night. That clerk probably won't be on duty to-morrow."

"We'll ask him before we go to bed," agreed Lorry, and upon leaving the brilliantly lighted garden they sought the landlord and asked if he could tell them where Caspar Guggenslocker lived. He looked politely incredulous and thoughtful, and then, with profound regret, assured them he had never heard the name. He said he had lived in Edelweiss all his life, and knew everybody of consequence in the town.

"Surely there must be such people here," cried Lorry, almost appealingly. He felt disheartened and cheated. Anguish was biting his lips.

"Oh, possibly among the poorer classes. If I were you, sir, I should call on Captain Dangloss, the Chief of Police. He knows every soul in Edelweiss. I am positive I have never heard the name. You will find the Captain at the Tower to-morrow morning."

The two Americans went to bed, one so dismayed by his disappointment that he could not sleep for hours.

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CHAPTER V. SENTIMENTAL EXCHANGEIf Lorry slept that night he was not aware of it. The next morning, after he had breakfasted with his mother, he tried in vain to recall a minute of the time between midnight and eight a.m. in which he did not think of the young woman who had flown away with his tranquillity. All night long he tossed and thought. He counted ten thousand black sheep jumping over a pasture fence, but, after the task was done and the sheep had scattered, he was as far from sleep as ever. Her face was