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Long Live the King

The Fortress
The anniversary of the death of Prince Hubert dawned bright and sunny. The Place
showed a thin covering of snow, which clung, wet and sticky, to the trees; but by nine
o'clock most of it had disappeared, and Prince Ferdinand William Otto was informed that
the excursion would take place.
Two motors took the party, by back streets, to the landing-stage. In the first were
Annunciata, Hedwig, and the Countess, and at the last moment Otto had salvaged Miss
Braithwaite from the second car, and begged a place for her with him. A police agent sat
beside the chauffeur. Also another car, just ahead, contained other agents, by Mettlich's
order before his departure - a plain black motor, without the royal arms.
In the second machine followed a part of the suite, Hedwig's lady in waiting, two
gentlemen of the Court, in parade dress, and Father Gregory, come from his monastery at
Etzel to visit his old friend, the King.
At the landing-stage a small crowd had gathered on seeing the red carpet laid and the gilt
ropes put up, which indicated a royal visit. A small girl, with a hastily secured bouquet in
her hot hands, stood nervously waiting. In deference to the anniversary, the flowers were
tied with a black ribbon!
Annunciata grumbled when she saw the crowd, and the occupants of the first car looked
them over carefully. It remained for Hedwig to spy the black ribbon. In the confusion, she
slipped over to the little girl, who went quite white with excitement. "They are lovely,"
Hedwig whispered, "but please take off the black ribbon." The child eyed her anxiously.
"It will come to pieces, Highness."
"Take the ribbon from your hair. It will be beautiful."
Which was done! But, as was not unnatural, the child forgot her speech, and merely
thrust the bouquet, tied with a large pink bow, into the hands of Prince Ferdinand
William Otto.
"Here," she said. It was, perhaps, the briefest, and therefore the most agreeable
presentation speech the Crown Prince had ever heard.
Red carpet and gold ropes and white gloves these last on the waiting officers - made the
scene rather gay. The spring sun shone on the gleaming river, on the white launch with its
red velvet cushions, on the deck chairs, its striped awnings and glittering brass, on the
Crown Prince, in uniform, on the bouquet and the ribbon. But somewhere, back of the
quay, a band struck up a funeral march, and a beggar, sitting in the sun, put his hand to
his ear.
"Of course," he said, to no one in particular. "It is the day. I had forgotten."
 
 
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