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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBeverly Of Graustark - Chapter 8. Through The Ganlook Gates
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Beverly Of Graustark - Chapter 8. Through The Ganlook Gates Post by :richa Category :Long Stories Author :George Barr Mccutcheon Date :May 2012 Read :3109

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Beverly Of Graustark - Chapter 8. Through The Ganlook Gates

CHAPTER VIII. THROUGH THE GANLOOK GATES

By this time they were passing the queer little huts that marked the outskirts of a habitable community. These were the homes of shepherds, hunters and others whose vocations related especially to the mountains. Farther on there were signs of farming interests; the homes became more numerous and more pretentious in appearance. The rock-lined gorge broadened into a fertile valley; the road was smooth and level, a condition which afforded relief to the travelers. Ravone had once more dressed the wounds inflicted by the lion; but he was unable to provide anything to subdue the fever. Baldos was undeniably ill. Beverly, between her exclamations of joy and relief at being in sight of Ganlook, was profuse in her expressions of concern for the hero of the Hawk and Raven. The feverish gleam in his dark eyes and the pain that marked his face touched her deeply. Suffering softened his lean, sun-browned features, obliterating the mocking lines that had impressed her so unfavorably at the outset. She was saying to herself that he was handsome after a most unusual cast; it was an unforgetable face.

"Your highness," he said earnestly, after she had looked long and anxiously at his half-closed eyes, "we are within an hour of Ganlook. It will be dark before we reach the gates, I know, but you have nothing to fear during the rest of the trip. Franz shall drive you to the sentry post and turn over the horses to your own men. My friends and I must leave you at the end of the mountain road. We are--"

"Ridiculous!" she cried. "I'll not permit it! You must go to a hospital."

"If I enter the Ganlook gates it will be the same as entering the gates of death," he protested.

"Nonsense! You have a fever or you wouldn't talk like that. I can promise you absolute security."

"You do not understand, your highness."

"Nevertheless, you are going to a hospital," she firmly said. "You would die out here in the wilds, so what are the odds either way? Aunt Fanny, _will you be careful? Don't you know that the least movement of those bags hurts him?"

"Please, do not mind me, your highness. I am doing very well," he said, smiling.

The coach brought up in front of a roadside inn. While some of the men were watering the horses others gathered about its open window. A conversation in a tongue utterly incomprehensible to Beverly took place between Baldos and his followers. The latter seemed to be disturbed about something, and there was no mistaking the solicitous air with which they regarded their leader. The pseudo-princess was patient as long as possible and then broke into the discussion.

"What do they want?" she demanded in English.

"They are asking for instructions," he answered.

"Instruct them to do as I bid," she said. "Tell them to hurry along and get you a doctor; that's all."

Evidently his friends were of the same opinion, for after a long harangue in which he was obdurate to the last, they left the carriage and he sank back with a groan of dejection.

"What is it?" she anxiously demanded.

"They also insist that I shall go to a surgeon," he said hopelessly. His eyes were moist and he could not meet her gaze. She was full of exultation.

"They have advised me to put myself under your protection, shameless as that may seem to a man. You and you alone have the power to protect me if I pass beyond the walls of Ganlook."

"I?" she cried, all a-flutter.

"I could not thrust my head into the jaws of death unless the princess of Graustark were there to stay their fury. Your royal hand alone can turn aside the inevitable. Alas, I am helpless and know not what to do."

Beverly Calhoun sat very straight and silent beside the misguided Baldos. After all, it was not within her power to protect him. She was not the princess and she had absolutely no influence in Ganlook. The authorities there could not be deceived as had been these ignorant men of the hills. If she led him into the city it was decidedly probable that she might be taking him to his death. She only could petition, not command. Once at Yetive's side she was confident she could save the man who had done so much for her, but Ganlook was many miles from Edelweiss, and there was no assurance that intervention could be obtained in time. On the other hand, if he went back to the hills he was likely to die of the poisonous fever. Beverly was in a most unhappy state of mind. If she confessed to him that she was not the princess, he would refuse to enter the gates of Ganlook, and be perfectly justified in doing so.

"But if I should fail?" she asked, at last, a shiver rushing over her and leaving her cold with dread.

"You are the only hope, your highness. You had better say farewell to Baldos and let him again seek the friendly valley," said he wearily. "We can go no farther. The soldiers must be near, your highness. It means capture if we go on. I cannot expose my friends to the dangers. Let me be put down here, and do you drive on to safety. I shall fare much better than you think, for I am young and strong and--"

"No! I'll risk it," she cried. "You must go into the city. Tell them so and say that I will protect you with my own life and honor."

Fever made him submissive; her eyes gave him confidence; her voice soothed his fears, if he possessed them. Leaning from the window, he called his men together. Beverly looked on in wonder as these strange men bade farewell to their leader. Many of them were weeping, and most of them kissed his hand. There were broken sentences, tear-choked promises, anxious inquiries, and the parting was over.

"Where are they going?" Beverly whispered, as they moved away in the dusk.

"Back into the mountains to starve, poor fellows. God be kind to them, God be good to them," he half sobbed, his chin dropping to his breast. He was trembling like a leaf.

"Starve?" she whispered. "Have they no money?"

"We are penniless," came in muffled tones from the stricken leader.

Beverly leaned from the window and called to the departing ones. Ravone and one other reluctantly approached. Without a word she opened a small traveling bag and drew forth a heavy purse. This she pressed into the hand of the student. It was filled with Graustark gavvos, for which she had exchanged American gold in Russia.

"God be with you," she fervently cried. He kissed her hand, and the two stood aside to let the coach roll on into the dusky shadows that separated them from the gates of Ganlook, old Franz still driving--the only one of the company left to serve his leader to the very end.

"Well, we have left them," muttered Baldos, as though to himself. "I may never see them again--never see them again. God, how true they have been!"

"I shall send for them the moment I get to Ganlook and I'll promise pardons for them all," she cried rashly, in her compassion.

"No!" he exclaimed fiercely. "You are not to disturb them. Better that they should starve."

Beverly was sufficiently subdued. As they drew nearer the city gates her heart began to fail her. This man's life was in her weak, incapable hands and the time was nearing when she must stand between him and disaster.

"Where are these vaunted soldiers of yours?" he suddenly asked, infinite irony in his voice.

"My soldiers?" she said faintly.

"Isn't it rather unusual that, in time of trouble and uncertainty, we should be able to approach within a mile of one of your most important cities without even so much as seeing a soldier of Graustark?"

She felt that he was scoffing, but it mattered little to her.

"It is a bit odd, isn't it?" she agreed.

"Worse than that, your highness."

"I shall speak to Dangloss about it," she said serenely, and he looked up in new surprise. Truly, she was an extraordinary princess.

Fully three-quarters of an hour passed before the coach was checked. Beverly, looking from the windows, had seem the lighted windows of cottages growing closer and closer together. The barking of roadside dogs was the only sound that could be heard above the rattle of the wheels. It was too dark inside the coach to see the face of the man beside her, but something told her that he was staring intently into the night, alert and anxious. The responsibility of her position swooped down upon her like an avalanche as she thought of what the next few minutes were to bring forth. It was the sudden stopping of the coach and the sharp commands from the outside that told her probation was at an end. She could no longer speculate; it was high time to act.

"The outpost," came from Baldos, in strained tones.

"Perhaps they won't know us--you, I mean," she whispered.

"Baron Dangloss knows everybody," he replied bitterly.

"What a horrid old busy-body he--" she started to say, but thought better of it.

A couple of lanterns flashed at the window, almost blinding her. Aunt Fanny groaned audibly, but the figure of Baldos seemed to stiffen with defiance. Uniformed men peered into the interior with more rudeness and curiosity than seemed respectful to a princess, to say the least. They saw a pretty, pleading face, with wide gray eyes and parted lips, but they did not bow in humble submission as Baldos had expected. One of the men, evidently in command, addressed Beverly in rough but polite tones. It was a question that he asked, she knew, but she could not answer him, for she could not understand him.

"What do you want?" she put in English, with a creditable display of dignity.

"He does not speak English, your highness," volunteered Baldos, in a voice so well disguised that it startled her. The officer was staring blankly at her.

"Every officer in my army should and must learn to speak English," she said, at her wits' end, "I decline to be questioned by the fellow. Will you talk to him in my stead?"

"I, your highness?" he cried in dismay.

"Yes. Tell him who we are and ask where the hospital is," she murmured, sinking back with the air of a queen, but with the inward feeling that all was lost.

"But I don't speak your language well," he protested.

"You speak it beautifully," she said. Baldos leaned forward painfully and spoke to the officer in the Graustark tongue.

"Don't you know your princess?" he demanded, a trifle harshly. The man's eyes flew wide open in an instant and his jaw dropped.

"Th--the princess?" he gasped.

"Don't stare like that, sir. Direct us to the main gate at once, or you will have cause to regret your slowness."

"But the princess was--is coming by the northern pass," mumbled the man. "The guard has gone out to meet her and--" Baldos cut him off shortly with the information that the princess, as he could see, had come by the lower pass and that she was eager to reach a resting-place at once. The convincing tone of the speaker and the regal indifference of the lady had full effect upon the officer, who had never seen her highness. He fell back with a deep obeisance, and gave a few bewildered commands to his men. The coach moved off, attended by a party of foot-soldiers, and Beverly breathed her first sigh of relief.

"You did it beautifully," she whispered to Baldos, and he was considerably puzzled by the ardor of her praise." Where are we going now? "she asked.

"Into the city, your highness," he answered. It was beginning to dawn upon him that she was amazingly ignorant and inconsequential for one who enjoyed the right to command these common soldiers. Her old trepidation returned with this brief answer. Something told her that he was beginning to mistrust her at last. After all, it meant everything to him and so little to her.

When the coach halted before the city gates she was in a dire state of unhappiness. In the darkness she could feel the reproachful eyes of old Aunt Fanny searching for her abandoned conscience.

"Ask if Baron Dangloss is in Ganlook, and, if he is, command them to take me to him immediately," she whispered to Baldos, a sudden inspiration seizing her. She would lay the whole matter before the great chief of police, and trust to fortune. Her hand fell impulsively upon his and, to her amazement, it was as cold as ice. "What is the matter?" she cried in alarm.

"You trusted me in the wilds, your highness," he said tensely; "I am trusting you now." Before she could reply the officer in charge of the Ganlook gates appeared at the coach window. There were lights on all sides. Her heart sank like lead. It would be a miracle if she passed the gates unrecognized.

"I must see Baron Dangloss at once," she cried in English, utterly disdaining her instructions to Baldos.

"The baron is engaged at present and can see no one," responded the good-looking young officer in broken English.

"Where is he?" she demanded nervously.

"He is at the home of Colonel Goaz, the commandant. What is your business with him?"

"It is with him and not with you, sir," she said, imperious once more. "Conduct me to him immediately."

"You cannot enter the gates unless you--"

"Insolence!" exclaimed Baldos. "Is this the way, sir, in which you address the princess? Make way for her."

"The princess!" gasped the officer. Then a peculiar smile overspread his face. He had served three years in the Castle Guard at Edelweiss! There was a long pause fraught with disaster for Beverly. "Yes, perhaps it is just as well that we conduct her to Baron Dangloss," he said at last. The deep meaning in his voice appealed only to the unhappy girl. "There shall be no further delay, _your highness!_" he added mockingly. A moment later the gates swung open and they passed through. Beverly alone knew that they were going to Baron Dangloss under heavy guard, virtually as prisoners. The man knew her to be an impostor and was doing only his duty.

There were smiles of derision on the faces of the soldiers when Beverly swept proudly between the files and up the steps leading to the commandant's door, but there were no audible remarks. Baldos followed, walking painfully but defiantly, and Aunt Fanny came last with the handbag. The guards grinned broadly as the corpulent negress waddled up the steps. The young officer and two men entered the door with the wayfarers, who were ordered to halt in the hallway.

"Will your highness come with me?" said the officer, returning to the hall after a short absence. There was unmistakable derision in his voice and palpable insolence in his manner. Beverly flushed angrily. "Baron Dangloss is very _curious to see you," he added, with a smile. Nevertheless, he shrank a bit beneath the cold gleam in the eyes of the impostor.

"You will remain here," she said, turning to Baldos and the negress. "And you will have nothing whatever to say to this very important young man." The "important young man" actually chuckled.

"Follow me, your most royal highness," he said, preceding her through the door that opened into the office of the commandant. Baldos glared after them in angry amazement.

"Young man, some day and _soon you will be a much wiser soldier and, in the ranks," said Beverly hotly. The smile instantly receded from the insolent fellow's face, for there was a world of prophecy in the way she said it. Somehow, he was in a much more respectful humor when he returned to the hall and stood in the presence of the tall, flushed stranger with the ragged uniform.

A short, fierce little man in the picturesque uniform of a Graustark officer arose as Beverly entered the office. His short beard bristled as though it were concealing a smile, but his manner was polite, even deferential. She advanced fearlessly toward him, a wayward smile struggling into her face.

"I daresay you know I am not the princess," she said composedly. Every vestige of fear was gone now that she had reached the line of battle. The doughty baron looked somewhat surprised at this frank way of opening the interview.

"I am quite well aware of it," he said politely.

"They say you know everyone, Baron Dangloss," she boldly said. "Pray, who am I?"

The powerful official looked at the smiling face for a moment, his bushy eyebrows contracting ever so slightly. There was a shameless streak of dust across her cheek, but there was also a dimple there that appealed to the grim old man. His eyes twinkled as he replied, with fine obsequiousness:

"You are Miss Beverly Calhoun, of Washington."

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