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Long Live the King

Rather A Wild Night
Things were going very wrong for Nikky Larisch.
Not handsome, in any exact sense, was Nikky, but tall and straight, with a thatch of bright
hair not unlike that of the Crown Prince, and as unruly. Tall and straight, and
occasionally truculent, with a narrow rapier scar on his left cheek to tell the story of wild
student days, and with two clear young eyes that had looked out humorously at the world
until lately. But Nikky was not smiling at the world these days.
Perhaps, at the very first, he had been in love with the princess, not the woman. It had
been rather like him to fix on the unattainable and worship it from afar. Because, for all
the friendliness of their growing intimacy, Hedwig was still a star, whose light touched
him, but whose warmth was not for him. He would have died fighting for her with a
smile on his lips. There had been times when he almost wished he might. He used to
figure out pleasant little dramas, in which, fallen on the battlefield, his last word, uttered
in all reverence, was her name. But he had no hope of living for her, unless, of course,
she should happen to need him, which was most unlikely. He had no vanity whatever,
although in parade dress, with white gloves, he hoped he cut a decent figure.
So she had been his star, and as cold and remote. And then, that very morning, whether it
was the new cross-saddle suit or whatever it was, Hedwig had been thrown. Not badly -
she was too expert for that. As a matter of fact, feeling herself going, she had flung two
strong young arms around her horse's neck, and had almost succeeded in lighting on her
feet. It was not at all dramatic.
But Nikky's heart had stopped beating. He had lifted her up from where she sat, half
vexed and wholly ashamed, and carried her to a chair. That was all. But when it was all
over, and Hedwig was only a trifle wobbly and horribly humiliated, Nikky Larisch knew
the truth about himself, knew that he was in love with the granddaughter of his King, and
that under no conceivable circumstances would he ever be able to tell her so. Knew, then,
that happiness and he had said a long farewell, and would thereafter travel different
roads.
It had stunned him. He had stood quite still and thought about it. And Prince Ferdinand
William Otto had caught him in the act of thinking; and had stood before him and
surveyed him anxiously.
"You needn't look so worried, you know," he protested. "She's not really hurt;"
Nikky came back, but slowly. He had in a few seconds already traveled a long way along
the lonely road. But he smiled down at the little Prince.
"But she might have been, you know. It - it rather alarmed me."
 
 
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