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   Chapter 15 THE ATTITUDE OF THE GRAND DUKE

Happy Pollyooly: The Rich Little Poor Girl By Edgar Jepson Characters: 10570

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


The baron's bitterness was deepened by this accident to his charge; and he continued stubbornly to lay the blame of it on Pollyooly: if she had not actually flung him into the dyke, she had led him into the marsh, where the dyke was. Then two mornings later there came a telegram to inform him that the Grand Duke of Lippe-Schweidnitz, on his way to answer the letter of appeal in person, was already in London, and would reach Pyechurch early in the afternoon. The baron was a glad man. All the morning, reclined in his deck-chair, with eyes full of a gloating triumph, he watched Pollyooly direct the play of the prince; and as he watched he hummed an aria, the same aria, of Mozart. He foresaw a speedy end to this distressing social entanglement and her evil domination.

At lunch he informed his royal charge of the coming of his august sire, and told him that he must stay at home to welcome him.

"I go do blay wiz Bollyooly," said his young charge stolidly.

"You vill nod go," said the baron firmly.

His young charge said no more; he only looked at his beaming preceptor with eyes cold with the steeliest contempt. The baron failed to grasp the purport of the look.

After lunch he had the prince carefully cleaned, and then set him in an easy chair under his eye, to await the coming of his august sire, who would arrive about a quarter to three. Then he walked up and down the room working out the most effective presentation of his indictment of Pollyooly and the social entanglement. At intervals he gesticulated and muttered a phrase. He was making excellent progress with it and at five and twenty minutes to three he was at the end of it. The prince sat stolidly in the easy chair by the long windows. At twenty-four minutes to three the baron flung out the last damning phrase (with the appropriate splendid gesture) at his image in the looking-glass over the mantelpiece. Then he turned to beam triumphantly on his little charge. The easy chair was empty; the prince had gone.

With language far less sonorous, but more staccato, the baron bounced to the window, just in time to see his little charge disappear swiftly over the edge of the sea-wall fifty yards away. Unfortunately the baron wore his hair too short to be able to tear handfuls of it from his head, or he would have bereft himself of a handful or two. But everything that language could do to ease him, language did. He must be at home to receive his august master: etiquette demanded it imperatively. He had no time to recover his young charge, whose presence etiquette demanded no less imperatively. Dashed from his height of splendid triumph, and exhausted by the fluency with which he had dealt with the appalling situation, he sank heavily into the easy chair, an embittered man.

He was quickly roused from his gloom by the stopping of a barouche before the house. In it sat his august master, a splendid round figure of a man, clad in the lightest-coloured tweeds Schweidnitz could boast, and surmounted by the whitest of white bowlers. His large, broad, square face ended in three well-moulded chins. In the middle of the fine expanse of face (his was not a high forehead) was a bristling imperial moustache, far fiercer than the baron's; above it rose a big, thick nose. His eyes were a bright blue; and they twinkled in an engaging fashion somewhat disappointing in a royal personage. Beside him sat a slim, contrasting equerry.

The baron rushed forth, and after the manner of his caste, was abject in his apologies for the absence of Prince Adalbert.… He had taken every precaution.… All had been in vain.… The infatuated unfortunate would steal away to the little she-devil-child.

"Ach, zo?" said the grand duke, who made a point of speaking English in England; and he descended with earth-shaking majesty from the creaking barouche.

"Ve vill go to zem," he said after testing the soil of Pyechurch with a cautious foot to make sure that it was equal to his weight.

On the way to the sea-wall the baron poured forth his damning indictment, disjointedly and without the fierceness of phrase and splendour of gesture he had practised; and three times the grand duke said, somewhat phlegmatically, the baron thought:

"Ach zo?"

They came out on to the wall just above the band of Pollyooly's subjects, hot and excited in a game of rounders.

The quick eye of the grand duke at once espied Prince Adalbert running to field a ball.

"Ach, he is zlimmer!" he said in a tone of satisfaction.

"Zlimmer? He is zlimmer, your Highness. Id iz zat leedle she-devil-child. She nevare-nod nevare-leds 'im be steel. All ze day she makes 'im roosh and roosh. He haf nevare no breath in hees loongs-nod nevare!"

"Ach, zo?" said the grand duke calmly. "He is rooning mooch faster zan he vas could."

"Id's zat leedle she-devil-child! She make 'im roon and roon all ze day!" cried the baron.

"Ach, zo?" said the grand duke. "Alzo he is peenk-guite peenk."

The satisfaction in his tone had increased. He could hardly be called a fond parent, in the matter of Adalbert; he might more truly be said to bear with him. Indeed he had never been able to explain the boy to his satisfaction. There was perhaps a slight physical resemblance between Adalbert and his par

ents; but whereas he knew himself to be one of the astutest princes in the German Empire and his wife to be an uncommonly clear-witted woman, no father's partiality hid from him the fact that Adalbert was obtuse. He was inclined to accept sadly the theory of Professor Muller, professor of anatomy and physiology at the University of Lippe-Schweidnitz, and court physician, that Adalbert cast back to his great-grandfather Franz, who had been known to his irreverent subjects as "The Dolt."

He gazed at the perspiring and excited band for a minute in silence. Then he said:

"Wheech is ze leedle she-devil-child?"

"Zat von-zat von in ze meedle-wiz ze red 'air," said the baron.

He pointed to Pollyooly in the middle of the ring where she was acting as pitcher, her face flushed, her eyes shining, her red hair a flying cloud.

An immense slow smile spread over the expanse of royal face; and the grand duke cried: "Mein Gott! Bud id is nod a child at all-zat! Id is an anchel-a leedle anchel-Italian renascence! Is id nod, Erkelenz?" And he turned to his slim equerry.

"Yes, Highness: authentic," said the equerry.

The Baron von Habelschwert gasped; he could not believe his ears.

The little girl, batting, whacked the ball over the prince's head.

"Run, Adalbert! Run!" shrieked Pollyooly.

"Roon, Adalbert! Der Teufel! Roon!" bellowed the grand duke.

It is hard to say whether the shriek of Pollyooly or the terrific bellow of his august sire was the sharper spur to the prince's legs; but he saved the rounder.

"Sblendid! 'e did not roon like an ox," said the grand duke almost proudly. "Vhat did you write vas ze name of zat leedle anchel?"

"Bollyooly, your Highness," gasped the baron in a feverish doubt whether he was standing on his head or his heels, for the grand duke had heard her call the hope of the house of Lippe-Schweidnitz "Adalbert" with his own ears!

"Bollyooly? A beautiful name!" cried the grand duke with enthusiasm.

Then came the great event of Prince Adalbert's life. The little boy who was batting hit the ball right into his hands. He grabbed at it; and by a miracle it stuck in his fingers.

His side leapt and shrieked as one child; and the grand duke leapt and bellowed. The shock of his descent on the sea-wall made it quiver for many feet round him.

He turned upon his slim equerry, seized his arm, and shook him as the wind shakes a blade of corn.

"Did you see zat? Id is ze creeket! 'e caught 'im out," he bellowed in stentorian tones which rang out far across the marsh. "Bollyooly has made 'im zlim! She has made 'im roon! She has made 'im peenk! She has taught 'im ze creeket! She shall rewarded be! I will gonfer on 'er ze Order of Chastity of Lippe-Schweidnitz of ze zecond class!"

He loosed his slim equerry, and hammered his enormous right palm with his huge left fist.

The slim equerry shook his head (this time without any assistance from his august master) and said:

"She is too young, your Highness. Ze order can only be gonferred on ladies of twenty-von or elder."

"Zen I will gonfer it on 'er when she is twenty-von! Bud I will reward 'er alzo now! Vetch 'er!" cried the grand duke.

The slim equerry went down the sea-wall across the sands to Pollyooly. The game stopped while he conferred with her. Pollyooly looked from him to the fine, round figure on the sea-wall; then she patted her hair, smoothed her frock, called to her young companions that she would be back in a minute or two, and went with the slim equerry. She was not timid, or even shy. Her estimate of the royal family of Lippe-Schweidnitz had been formed from her knowledge of Prince Adalbert; and it was not a high one. That royal family left her unimpressed and certainly unrevering. She was hardly curious about the grand duke.

On the way to him the slim equerry asked her her name, and told her to be sure to address the grand duke as "your Highness."

On the sea-wall he took her hand, grew rigid, saluted, and said:

"I present the Fr?ulein Bollyooly von Bride to your Highness."

Like the well-mannered child she was, Pollyooly dropped a curtsey.

The grand duke seized her hand, and shook it warmly, and cried:

"Mein Gott! if you were zeven-five years elder, I would keess you! Bud id is far to sdoop. You haf done great good to my zon, ze Prince Adalbert. You haf made him peenk-guite peenk; and you haf taught him ze creeket. Id iz sblendid; and you moost rewarded be. Gif me my burse, Erkelenz."

The slim equerry took a purse from his pocket and handed it to the grand duke. The grand duke opened it, turned it upside down, poured on to his palm eleven golden sovereigns, and pressed them with somewhat clumsy fingers into Pollyooly's hands.

The amazed Pollyooly flushed; and her eyes shone like bright stars; the family of Lippe-Schweidnitz rose a thousand feet in her estimation.

"Oh! Thank you, your Highness!" she gasped.

"Zere is no zanks-nod none! You haf made Adalbert peenk. You are von sblendid anchel child. And id iz me to zank you," said the grand duke; and very gently, for the size of his fingers, he patted her head. Then he drew himself up and, with a splendid wave of his gigantic hand, added:

"Und now go and blay wiz Adalbert-blay wiz him always!"

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