Her highness moved serenely toward the door. Carmichael waited till she was gone from sight, then he stooped and picked up the fan. Herbeck at once held out his hand. "Give it to me, Herr Captain," he said, with a melancholy gentleness. "I will return it to her highness." Carmichael deliberately thrust the fan into a pocket and shook his head.
"Oh, he is a little fellow, and hasn't grown his bite yet," said Herbeck dryly. The duke laughed again. It would be as good as a play. "I thank you, Herbeck. You have neatly arranged a fine comedy. I do not think so clearly as I used to. When the arrest is made, give it as much publicity as possible. Take a squad of soldiers; it will give it a military look.
Gretchen's eyes roamed undecidedly from the duke to Herbeck. "She is dead, Highness, and I found this letter under her pillow." It was Herbeck's hand that took the envelope. But he did not open it at once. "Dead?" Hildegarde's eyes filled. "Who is dead?" demanded the duke. "Emma Schultz, father. Oh, I know you will forgive me for this deception.
"Shall I weep and tear my hair over a boy I have never seen? No, thank you. I was about to make known to you this very evening that I had reconsidered the offer. I shall never marry his majesty." "A fine time!" The duke's hand trembled. "Why, in God's name, did you not refuse when the overtures were first made? The truth, Herbeck, the whole truth; for there is something more than this."
What the devil is my army for if not to uphold my dignity? Herbeck, you shall not argue me out of this." "Rather let me reason. This is some prank, which I am sure does not concern Ehrenstein in the least. They would never dare enter Dreiberg for aught else. There must be a flaw in our secret service." "Doubtless." "I have seen this writing before," said Herbeck.
Herbeck, in few words and without evasion, explained the situation. "Your Highness, the regent is really not to blame, for his majesty had given him free rein in the matter; and his royal highness, working as I have been for the best interests of the two countries, never dreamed that the king would rebel.
"But you will not be in the dark long after you have arrested these persons. Begin with the mountaineer and the vintner; the others do not matter so much." Then Herbeck laughed. The chief raised his head. He had not heard his excellency laugh like that in many moons. "Report to me your progress. Unfortunately my informant does not state just where these fellows are to be found."
Neither of them heard the chancellor's approach. "And because I love her." The fan in her hand slipped unheeded to the floor. "Your Highness," broke in the cold even tones of Herbeck, "your father is making inquiries about you." Carmichael rose instantly, white as the frill in his shirt. Hildegarde, however, was a princess. She gained her feet leisurely, with half a smile on her lips.
"Can you realize how difficult it is not to take you by the throat and strangle you here and now?" "He is mad!" said Herbeck, bracing himself against the desk. "Yes. I am mad, but it is the sane madness of a terribly wronged man. Come here, you Gipsy!" The duke seized Herbeck's hand and pressed it down fiercely on the desk. "Look at that and tell me if it is not the hand of a Judas!"
It did not matter that the news reached him through subterranean channels or by treachery; there was truth here, and that sufficed. "Enter!" he cried, as some one knocked on the door. Herbeck came in, as calm, as imperturbable as ever. "Your highness sent for me?" "I did. Why the devil couldn't you have left well enough alone? Read this!" flinging the note down on his desk.