0 0 0 0
T E, IU 1\ -
PRI NGL.ES$ NAKA
DRAWINGS BY PAUL-HARDY-
BLACKIE & SON, LIMITED, OLD BAILEY, E.C.
GLASGOW AND DUBLIN
I. "ZISKAZA PAPIUSKA!" . .
II. "SUCH IS THE LAW" . .
III. A NEW LAW ..........
IV. THE DUCHESS PLAYS HER LAST CARD
V. "To DHALAKASSI I". . .
VI. "THE PRAHSKIS!" . .
VII. AN UNKNOWN FRIEND . .
VIII. THE DUCHESS COMES TO THE FRONT .
IX. THE FOE WITHIN . .
X. THE DEFEAT OF THE DUCHESS .
XI. THE BURDEN IS SHIFTED . .
. . 79
. . 95
. . 113
. . 133
. . 143
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
The Princess Naska . ... Frontispiece.
The Lord High Chamberlain stepped up to the door of
the carriage . . 15
"Flinging his little brown arms about her neck" .... 26
She suddenly tore it across . . .. 30
Oh, you poor little darling!" ......... 35
The maids came hurrying into the room . 37
The Duchess paced up and down . .. 38
His Weightiness the Lord High Chancellor . 41
The Chancellor watched her . ... .44
"She dropped a curtsy even deeper than the last" 50
The Chancellor followed the lady-in-waiting .. .53
Oh, God, I thank Thee for letting me be in time!" 58
The Chancellor gazed at her in silence ...... 59
Oh, see, your Highness-look!" ... . .. .73
"With a half-concealed air of mockery" ...... 77
The Duchess plays her last card . .. 79
The Chancellor's carriage stopped at the gates . 82
The Lord High Tutor and the Whipping Boy ... 85
Pulski . . . 89
"I'd run away!" ...... . ..9
viii The Reign of the Princess Naska.
His Mightiness General Raditski . ... 95
The General took a step or two backwards . .' 99
Barboutsk brought before the Princess ... 103
The General resigns . . .. .o8
The Chief threw himself on his knees . .. 109
The Archbishop blessing the people . .. 113
Kapfsk acts as spokesman . . .116
The crowd in the great square . . 127
Singing the ancient Hymn of Supplication . .. 131
The trembling citizens bar their doors . .. 133
"They sat huddled together" . ..... 135
Naska moved towards one of the windows .. 139
Barboutsk on guard. . . . 141
"A messenger came rushing into her presence" 143
The Duchess addresses the garrison .... ... 147
Baron Hochkrieg reconnoitres . . .. 152
"Three steps at a time" ........... 157
The Prahskis guard the gate ... ..... 159
The bouquet...still grasped tightly in one little hand" 163
"She beckoned feebly to the Duchess" . 166
I will not be answerable for the consequences" 168
Her Excellency and the sentinel . .. 170
The Countess returns . . 171
Flight of the Duchess . . .. .175
It is very hard to be a Princess" ... ..... 177
"The doctor held up a warning finger" ... ... 18
"As your Highness will" . . ... 187
List of Illustrations. ix
Her Excellency makes a visit of inspection
"Do you call that gratitude?" .. ...
The City Gate ............
Prince Boris enters the city . .
"Not a living creature did he see" .
" He touched with his lips her tiny hand" .
The Prelate reads the Coronation Prayer .
Naska crowns Prince Boris . .
. .. 193
"ZISKA ZA PAPIUSKA.'
T. HE carriage rolled in through the gates
of the city towards the great square.
It was a large lumbering vehicle, lined
with satin and cloth of gold, and drawn by four
horses. On one of the horses was an outrider;
two men sat on the box, and two others stood
behind the carriage. One of the two men standing
behind held a large sunshade of silk and lace over
the head of the little figure sitting alone on the
seat of honour. It was the Princess Naska, the
12 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
child-sovereign of the small principality of Tsar-
kovia, who was returning from her morning
In spite of the weight of her rich silken garments
and of the heavy ermine mantle that covered her
slender shoulders (for though the sun ,shone
brightly overhead, there was a chillness in the
air), the little princess held herself erect with all
the dignity of her rank. There was dignity, too,
in the small pale face, half-hidden beneath the
broad-brimmed hat with its drooping plumes; and
about the curves of the firm little mouth and chin
there was a look strange to see in the face of a
child-a look which comes usually only to those
who for years have practised self-control. Not
less unchildlike was the expression of her large
almond-shaped eyes, over which the lids drooped
heavily. A listless languor lay in their dark
depths, and weariness hung -on the long black
lashes that swept the wan cheek.
One of the two Court ladies who sat on the seat
opposite the princess-a fair-faced girl with soft,
"Ziskd za Papzuska!" 13
dove-like blue eyes-leaned forward, and ventured
to address the little sovereign.
"Your Highness perhaps feels drowsy?" she
said in a gentle voice. The air is-"
'She stammered, and stopped short suddenly,
blushing and confused. She was but new at the
Court of Tsarkovia, and as yet ignorant of its
etiquette, and of the character of the little princess.
Naska had said nothing. She had only raised
the heavy curtain of her eyelids, and fixed a slow,
steady gaze on the speaker's face. There was
surprise in that gaze, and languid scorn. The
other Court lady spoke.
"A princess must not feel drowsy," she said
rebukingly, in a severely correct tone of voice.
The lady was the Dowager-Duchess of Alpen-
stein, and great-aunt of the Princess Naska, whose
bringing-up and education she had directed for the
last ten years-since the time when, still in her
cradle, the little princess became, by the death of
both her parents, the legal sovereign of Tsarkovia.
Even before she could speak, the child had been
14 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
trained, by her great-aunt's directions, in self-
restraint and self-control. She had never been
petted or fondled like other babies; and her baby-
tears and fits of baby-temper had been checked by
the sternly-spoken words, "A princess must not,
&c."-words which had stamped themselves upon
her opening mind, and shaped her life and character.
While the Dowager-Duchess was speaking, the
carriage had reached the entrance to the great
square. Now, the coachman drew up with such
suddenness as to cause the horses to fall back
upon their haunches, and nearly to upset the two
flunkeys standing at the back of the carriage. As
the little princess looked out with languid interest
to discover the cause of the stoppage, the Lord
High Chamberlain stepped up to the door of the
carriage, bowing so low that the plumes on the
three-cornered hat in his hand almost swept the
Your Highness will perhaps graciously excuse
the liberty I have taken in venturing to stop your
Highness's carriage,' he said, addressing himself
THE LORD HIGH CHAMBERLAIN STEPPED UP TO THE
DOOR OF THE CARRIAGE.
!6 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
deferentially to Naska. It is not advisable that
your Highness should pass through the square at
"Why not?" demanded the little princess, not
without a ring of anger in her shrill childish voice.
The question seemed to throw the chamberlain
into some confusion. He coughed and stammered.
It is not advisable, your Highness," he re-
peated weakly. And then he added a few words
in an undertone to the Duchess of Alpenstein.
"Your Highness will permit me," said that lady
in a formal, self-confident tone of voice, "your
Highness will permit me to direct the driver to
go by the River Way instead of through the
Naska let her large eyes rest upon the speaker
for a second or two with that steady, penetrating
gaze which most people found disconcerting.
Bid him drive on through the square," she
It was the first time that the child-sovereign
had asserted her will against that of her great-
"Ziskd za Papiuska!" 17
aunt. When the carriage dashed into the square,
the duchess was sitting even more erect than
usual, if that were possible, with a look of offended
dignity in her somewhat severe face.
It was a strange sight that met the eyes of the
little princess. Save for a space in the centre,
which was kept clear by a body of the Tsarkovian
Guard, whose spears and helmets glittered in the
sunshine, the great square was crowded with a
mass of people all looking towards the same point,
and clad in strange garments of differing styles.
There were shepherds clothed in the skins of
sheep or goats, with large crooks in their hands,
and sandals of hide on their bare feet. There
were men of the city in flowing robes, or wide,
bright-hued pantaloons, with strange sugar-loaf
hats upon their heads, or gay-coloured cloth rolled
round them. There were women too, some
wearing curious pointed head-dresses, and others
covered with Turkish veils which suffered only
their eyes to be seen. The people of Tsarkovia
are a mixed race.
(Mt 061 B
18 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
The crowd parted to right and left, making way
for the carriage of the princess, whom they saluted
with low obeisances and loud shouts; and the
horses dashed into the cleared space in the centre.
Then a shrill, childish voice rang out clear and
The coachman drew up abruptly. A breathless
silence fell upon the crowd; and again the little
voice shrilled out with a strange tone of authority
"What is that?" And Naska pointed to a
temporary wooden erection in the centre of the
It was a sort of platform with a flight of steps
leading up to it, and in the centre of it a tall beam,
from which hung a pulley and rope. Beside the
beam stood a man whose face was covered with
a black mask; and a few paces off, a priest in a
dark robe was leading forward a woman whose
limbs seemed to tremble beneath her. Her face
was ghastly pale, her long black hair hung down
"Ziskd za Papiiuska!" 19
about her back, and her bare arms were tied to-
gether behind her.
"What is that?" the little princess repeated.
"Your Highness will be pleased to remember,"
said the duchess in a tone of voice which, in a
person less dignified than herself, might have been
called sulky or pettish, "your Highness will be
pleased to remember that I endeavoured to save
your Highness from the sight of this painful spec-
"What is that?" demanded Naska for the third
time; "and what are they going to do to the
It is a scaffold," the duchess blurted out bluntly;
" and they are going to hang her."
Yes, your Highness-to hang her by the neck
till her body be dead!"
The duchess spoke in that There's-for-you,
Serves-you-right tone of voice, which is often
employed in speaking to naughty children, but is
hardly suitable for the ears of a reigning princess.
20 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
She had quite forgotten herself for the moment,
not being so well practised in self-control as her'
"They shall not!" The tones of the little voice
rang out sharp and clear as the notes of a clarion,
as Naska started to her feet, letting the ermine
mantle slip from her shoulders.
A rustle and' murmur passed through the eager,
expectant crowd, and a voice cried out suddenly,
in those words of an ancient dialect of Tsarkovia
which are only used at the coronation of a new
"Ziskd za Papiuska!" (" Long live the Sove-
As the shout reached the ears of the duchess,
her somewhat pettish anger gave place suddenly
to alarm, and her hard face paled. Though Naska
was the sovereign by right and in name, it was
the duchess who ruled in Tsarkovia; but she knew
that she could hold her power only so long as she
could keep control of the little princess. So soon
as she could assert her will, the Princess Naska,
"Ziskd za Papiuska!" 21
child though she was, would begin her independent
"Could it be that it was beginning now?" the
duchess asked herself with a sinking heart.
"Your Highness will pardon me," she said in a
soothing voice, "your Highness will pardon me,
but it is impossible for your Highness to interfere
with the course of the law. The law must have
But Naska flashed round upon her, her usually
languid eyes ablaze with a fire never seen in them
before, while a small round spot of red burned in
each of the pale little cheeks.
"They shall not hang her, I tell you!" she cried
passionately. "They shall not-they -"
A sudden fit of coughing cut short the sentence.
The alarm of the duchess increased.
"I beseech your Highness to calm yourself!"
she said in a tone of the gravest anxiety. This
excitement is-most injurious to your Highness;
and, moreover, should the crowd hear- What is
22, The Reign of the Princess Naska.
For there was a sudden stir and commotion in
the crowd near the carriage; and several excited
voices were heard crying out at once, "Back,
back-send him back!" No, let him go on-let
him go to the Papiuska! Ziskd za Papiuska!"
At the same moment, the woman on the scaffold
was seen to step to the edge of it, her whole
body straining eagerly forward as if she would
have thrown herself down, had she not been
held back by the man with the.mask, as well as
by the priest. Her black eyes were fastened on
some object in the crowd with a look of wild,
hungry longing-a look of love and pride strug-
gling with terror and despair. The little princess,
who had never looked on suffering .before, felt a
strange tightening about her heart as she gazed at
the woman as if fascinated.
She beckoned to the officer in command of the
"What is it?" she demanded. "What is she
The officer saluted respectfully.
"Ziskd za Papiuska!" 23
"'It is her child, your Highness," he replied.
"He is trying to reach his mother."
Bring him here!" Naska commanded.
The officer again saluted, and withdrew a step
or two to give orders. Immediately afterwards
Naska heard the sound of a child's voice raised as
if in angry defiance; and then two men of the
Guard appeared before the carriage, respectfully
saluting with one hand, while with the other they
dragged forward between them a little boy of
about five or six years old, whose only covering
was the skin of a kid rudely fashioned into a gar-
ment. So defiant and warlike was the expression
of the boy's chubby brown face, so strong and
sturdy were the sun-browned limbs and arms
exposed to view, that he might have sat for the
picture of the child Hercules.
The two soldiers who were dragging him tried
to make him kneel before the carriage; but he
planted his bare feet firmly on the ground, set his
small white teeth together, and clenched his little
brown fists. There were half-dried channels of
24 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
tears down his chubby cheeks, and two shining
drops hung on his black lashes.
"Mumski!" he cried in a plaintive, half-sulky
little wail like the bleat of a lost lamb-"Mumski!"
And he strained his eyes towards the woman on
the scaffold-eyes filled with reproach because she
did not come to him.
"What does he say?" asked the little princess
eagerly, for she did not understand the dialect he
He is calling to his mother, your Highness,"
replied one of the soldiers.
Oh!" she cried, and again she felt that strange
tightening at her heart. Little boy, little boy!"
she exclaimed with childish eagerness, I won't
let them do it-I won't let them do it!"
For an instant the child turned his black, tear-
dimmed eyes upon her. There was defiance in
them, and the bewildered pain of a dumb creature
that does not understand why it is suffering.
Mtimski!" he wailed again, Mumski!"
Do you not hear me, little boy?" demanded
"Ziskd za Papiuska!" 25
Naska impatiently. "Do you not understand?
I am the Princess-the Papiuska-and I won't let
them hang her. I-"
But the boy had turned away his head, not un-
derstanding her speech, and was struggling with
all his childish strength to free himself from his
captors, crying all the time,-" Mumski, Mumski!"
Then a strange thing happened. Suddenly the
little princess leaped from the carriage, almost
tripping on her rich dress; for though she was but
eleven years old, she wore a gown that reached to
her feet, as became a princess.
"Let him go," she said to the soldiers; and
taking the boy's little brown hand in hers, she led
him up the steps of the scaffold.
Half-way up he broke away from her, and rushed
before her to his mother, flinging his little brown
arms about her neck, and clinging to her with all
his strength, while she knelt on the scaffold to
reach his level. Naska, standing aside, unnoticed
and forgotten by both, saw the look upon their
faces, and noticed how the arms of the woman-
26 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
strained at their fetters, with the longing to fling
themselves about the child, till the ropes cut into
the flesh; and she felt as if her little heart, like
the arms of the woman, was being torn by the
fetters that bound it, as it struggled vainly to free
itself. Something rose up in her throat, and a
mist of tears for a second darkened her sight; but
"Ziskd za Papiuska!" 27
with the self-control which had become a second
nature to her, she forced back the rising tears, and
tightened her little mouth.
"A princess must not cry!" she said to herself.
Then, looking every inch a little sovereign, with
her tiny figure drawn up to its fullest height, and
her head thrown proudly back, she turned to face
the Lord High Chamberlain, who, with the Lord
High Sheriff, came panting and breathless up the
steps of the scaffold. The chamberlain was some-
whatstout, and he had been .obliged to walk rather
rapidly to overtake the princess.
"Tell them to unbind her hands!" she com-
manded. I will not let them hang her."
"Oh, your Highness!" panted the chamberlain
-"Oh, your Highness, this-this is most irregular!
Everything has been done in order, your High-
ness," interrupted the Lord High Sheriff. "The
"I will not have her hanged!" Naska per-
28 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
"Your Highness does not understand," sooth-
ingly spoke the chamberlain. The woman is
Palla Barboutsk, the wife of the chief of the Prah-
skis, the robber tribe, who-"
A bold and daring tribe, your Highness," broke
in the sheriff-" a bold and daring tribe who live
among the mountains-" He waved his hand
towards the ancient hills, whose bare, bald summits,
blistering in the hot mid-day sun, looked down
upon the city-" and endanger the lives and pro-
perty of your subjects."
"What has she done?" Naska demanded.
"Why, your Highness!" exclaimed both digni-
taries in one voice-" why, your Highness, she is
his wzfe-the wife of this Prahski chief who lives
by robbing and murdering your people!"
Has she robbed or murdered anyone?"
No, your Highness," replied the chamberlain,
"but she has shared in the man's spoils, and she
has obstinately refused to reveal the place of his
Moreover," put in the sheriff eagerly-" more-
"Ziskd za Papiuska!" 29
over, your Highness, her execution will strike
terror into the man, who-"
"It is not right to kill one person because
another has done wrong." The words came out
clear and distinct in the high-pitched, childish
voice, and reached the ears of some amongst the
Suddenly there arose a half-suppressed shout of
"Ziskd za Papiuska!" The two high officials
glanced at each other with looks of alarm.
"Your Highness will be pleased to be careful,"
they exclaimed together. "A disturbance among
such a crowd would be no light matter, and-"
But Naska silenced them with a glance of her
proud solemn eyes.
I will not have her hanged," she repeated.
"The warrant for her execution is signed by
your Highness's own hand," mildly objected the
"Show it to me."
Naska took the large document which was
handed to her into her small gloved hands. It
30 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
bore the great blapk seal of the state, and under-
neath, in large, sprawling, childish letters, her own
name. Ever since she could hold a pen, the little
princess had signed
the state papers,
without, of course,
knowing their con-
y rapidly over the
paper in her hand,
she suddenly tore
W it across with a
look of resolution
in her childish face.
Again and yet
again she tore it,
into small and ever
smaller pieces, till at length she let it fall fluttering
to the ground in a hundred tiny fragments.
It was as the Duchess of Alpenstein had feared:
the reign of the Princess Naska had begun. From
"Ziskd za Papiuska!" 31
a thousand throats arose, in one irrepressible shout,
the ancient coronation shout,-" Ziskd za Papi-
By her own act the little princess had taken the
law into her own tiny hands; and, child though
she was, no one could take it out of them again.
In Tsarkovia, the sovereign is absolute in power,
even though a minor. Since the death of her
father in her infancy, Naska had been the sove-
reign by right; now she had become sovereign in
She turned to the man in the mask with an air
Unbind her hands!" she commanded him.
Then she moved across the scaffold to the
steps, while the two high officials stood aside to
let her pass, bowing low before her. As she once
more took her place in the carriage, again and
again the shout rose from the throats of the
crowd; and in the space near the scaffold, men and
women were eagerly scrambling for the scraps of
paper which had fallen from her hand. For in
32 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
Tsarkovia they still believed that the touch of
royalty has the power to heal; and among the
crowd there were husbands and mothers eager to
bring home healing to dying wives, or sickly
But Naska scarcely heard the shouts, and knew
nothing of the scramble going on. :Her mind
was full of thought-full to overflowing-and her
heart was full of a strange new pain. She did
not know it herself, poor child, but it was the
sense of her own utter loneliness that was the chief
cause of the pain she felt. She was haunted by
the look of love and longing on- the face of the
woman as she stretched forward to catch a glimpse
of her child, by the tone of the boy's voice as he
wailed Mumski!" and by the sight of those poor
bound arms tugging and straining at their fetters.
As she seated herself in the carriage a shiver
passed over her; and the Countess of Rosenberg,
the young lady who sat beside the Duchess of
Alpenstein, leaned forward, and carefully wrapped
the ermine mantle about her.
"Ziskd za Papiuska!" 33
I fear your Highness has caught cold," she
said in a strange tremulous voice. And the
princess, turning her heavy eyes upon her, saw
with a dull feeling of wonder that the girl's fair
young cheek was wet with tears.
For an instant the child felt a mist rise up before
her eyes; but she forced it back. "A princess
must not cry!" she said to herself again, as she
had done on the scaffold. Neither must a princess
tremble; so she set her teeth, and made herself
rigid to prevent the trembling that shook her
Suddenly the young countess called out eagerly:
"Oh, your Highness, look-look-the woman
and the child! They are blessing your High-
And Naska, turning her head, saw the woman
whom she had saved, and the child with her,
running along after the carriage. As she looked,
they knelt in the white dust of the road, side by
side; and the woman turned her face up towards
the blue sky, and stretched her arms above her
34 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
head, with the hands crossed at the wrist, which
is the attitude of blessing in Tsarkovia. And the
child did like his mother, the two remaining
motionless till the carriage disappeared from sight.
Then Naska felt a little of the pain pass out of
her heart; for she saw that the woman and the child
had remembered her, and were grateful to her.
But why," she asked, turning her puzzled eyes
on the young Countess of Rosenberg-" why did
she not thank me before? Why did she forget
me, though I had saved her life?"
"Oh, your Highness," was the answer, it was
because of her joy at seeing again the child whom
"Whom she loved!" echoed the princess won-
deringly. Was that why she wanted so much to
put her arms round him?"
The Countess of Rosenberg was young and
impulsive, and quite unaccustomed to the etiquette
of the Court of Tsarkovia, having been brought
up in England, her mother's country. Suddenly
she went down on her knees in the carriage, and
"Ziskd za Papiuska!" 35
flung her arms round the child-sovereign, drawing
her towards her.
"Oh, you poor little darling!" she cried, while
tears rolled down her cheeks-" Oh, you poor
little darling, has no one ever done that to you?"
A sudden quick sob-only one-broke from the
lips of the little princess. Then she swallowed
hard, and sat bolt upright with a white, set face,
till a violent fit of coughing seized her.
The impulsive action of the young countess
had startled the Duchess of Alpenstein out of the
gloomy reverie in which she had been sunk for
3G The Reign of .lIe Princess Naska.
some time time back. She cast a look of horror
at the young girl
You forget yourself, countess," she said sternly,
adding under her breath, I fear the air of the
Court does not agree with you."
"SUCH IS THE LAW.
SHE Duchess of Alpenstein was in no
amiable mood when she found herself
in her own apartments in the palace
after her drive with the princess. Her
maids were glad to escape from her presence
when they had removed her rich mantle and
beplumed bonnet-not without many sharp
rebukes for their awkwardness and carelessness.
After despatching a message to the princess,
The Rezgn of the Princess Naska.
begging her Highness to excuse her non-appear-
ance at the mid-day meal, the duchess paced up
and down the large apartment, which was her
To be defied
z" by that child!"
with hot indigna-
tion, "that child
-whom I have
brought up! I
will not submit to
it. And yet-the
all-" She stopped short, and sharply rang the
Almost immediately the door opened, and a
maid softly entered the room.
"Suck is the Law." 39
"Your High-born Excellency was pleased to
ring?" she asked in a respectfully subdued tone
"Yes," replied the duchess. Request one of
the ladies-in-waiting to attend me."
A few seconds later, the door again opened,
and the young Countess of Rosenberg stood
before her-tall, slender, sweet as a half-opened
white rose-bud. But the duchess frowned as her
eyes rested upon her.
"No, not you," she said sternly. I shall have
speech of you later; but send hither another."
The young countess coloured with indigna-
tion as she bowed and withdrew; but she said
When the door opened for the third time, the
duchess allowed her keen gaze to rest for a second
with a look of approval on the figure of the young
lady who entered the room. She was attired with
the utmost care in the somewhat old-fashioned
style which, in obedience to the will of the duchess,
still prevailed at the Court of Tsarkovia. Not a
40 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
hair was out of place in the elaborate coiffure piled
high on her head in puffs and rolls; the ruffles at
her wrists and neck were snowy white; the silver
buckles on her high-heeled shoes glittered brightly;
and her rich silk dress, held out by a hoop, made
a perfect circle round her.
"Ah, baroness!" exclaimed the duchess, as the
young lady made a deep curtsy, with her eyes
turned modestly on the ground, "would you be
good enough to request one of the gentlemen of
the Lord High Chancellor to present my compli-
ments to His Weightiness, and say that I should
be greatly honoured if he would grant me a few
moments for consultation on a matter of grave
"Certainly, Excellency," replied the young lady,
as she again curtsied low, and withdrew.
Again the duchess paced impatiently up and
down the room for what appeared to her in her
eagerness several hours. At length the door once
more opened, and His Weightiness the Lord High
Chancellor was announced.
"Such is the Law." 41
"Your Weightiness does me much honour!"
exclaimed the duchess, as she advanced rapidly
to receive the new-comer--a
somewhat portly personage,
with a ruddy face surmounted
by a much-curled and pow-
dered wig. 01
"Your Excellency has
only to command," replied
the chancellor. From the
highest to the lowest of us,
all in Tsarkovia are proud
The duchess curtsied in il
acknowledgment of the com-
pliment; but there was an
uneasy smile upon her face as
she did so, as if she thought there was more in
the words than met the ear.
"Your Weightiness flatters me," she said. I
am only a servant of the sovereign-as we all are
-though, perhaps, her tender years-"
42 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
"The years of the sovereign of Tsarkovia
are never tender," interposed the chancellor
"Ah!" exclaimed the duchess with a start.
I mean, madam, in the eyes of the law. The
sovereign of Tsarkovia is of age from the time
when, by inheritance, he succeeds to the throne,
no matter what his years-or hers."
Then a mere child, if the sovereign, may have
uncontrolled authority over wise and learned men
and women of mature years?"
The chancellor bowed gravely.
Such is the law, madam," he said.
The duchess sprang to her feet from the luxu-
rious divan on which she had been sitting.
It is an unjust law!" she exclaimed in a tone
of anger and indignation, while her face became
as dark as thunder.
The chancellor shrugged his shoulders, and
It may be so, your Excellency," he said in-
"Such is the Law." 43
differently, "but I did not make the law-I am
only a humble interpreter of it."
But laws are often capable of many interpre-
tations-is it not so?" And the duchess shot a
keen, questioning glance into his face.
In many cases, madam, doubtless it is so," was
the calm reply; "but the laws with regard to the
succession and power of the sovereign of Tsar-
kovia are singularly clear."
The duchess turned quickly away with a look
of vexation and disappointment on her face, which
she vainly tried to conceal from the sharp eyes of
the chancellor. For a few seconds she paced up
and down the room in silence, while the chancellor
watched her, with the lower part of his face resting
on his hand, so as to conceal the smile of amuse-
ment on his lips. .In truth, he was not very
friendly towards the duchess, nor inclined to be
sorry for her in her distress, of which he knew
pretty well the cause. Suddenly, she stopped
short in front of him, and asked abruptly:
You know what happened to-day?"
44 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
"If your Excellency is referring to the pardon
of the condemned woman, Palla Barboutsk, by
the princess, I have heard of it," he answered.
If I am not mistaken, it was your Weightiness
yourself who passed sentence on her?"
"It was. The case not being an ordinary
criminal one, but in a certain sense political, it
was brought before the High Court."
"I need not ask if the trial was conducted
strictly in accordance with law, and if all the regu-
lar formalities were observed?"
"Suc/k is tke Law." 45
That goes without saying, madam."
"And is it possible that the decision of the
wisest judge in the principality, the decree of the
highest court, can be so lightly upset?"
The chancellor shrugged his shoulders indiffer-
In Tsarkovia, your Excellency," he said, "the
will of the sovereign overrides all decrees, all law."
An exclamation of impatience rose to the lips
of the duchess; but she controlled herself with an
effort, and, fixing her eyes on the face of the
chancellor, spoke in a tone of studied careless-
Doubtless that is so," she said, but "-lower-
ing her voice-" there is a question that has lain
much upon my mind of late; and I should like to
have the opinion of your Weightiness regarding it.
There is no opinion which I value so highly."
"Your Excellency does me too much honour,"
said the chancellor, as he bowed low.
"The question is one which concerns the wel-
fare of Tsarkovia and of the sovereign," went on
46 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
the duchess, not heeding the interruption. "As
your Weightiness is doubtless aware, the welfare
of the princess and the prosperity of her people
have always been my first thought since I came
to reside at this Court."
The chancellor bowed in silence.
Now the question is, how far it is right to risk
the safety of the state by informing the sovereign,
while still of tender years, of the extent of the
power which the law allows. For the sake of the
sovereign herself, might it not perhaps be wiser
not to let her know "-she paused, and fixed her
eyes searchingly on the chancellor's face.
Madam," he began, "it might be wise, but
He was interrupted by a low knock at the door,
followed by the entrance of the lady-in-waiting
whom the duchess had called baroness ".
I beg your pardon," she began, as she dropped
a low curtsy.
But the duchess interrupted her angrily, with a
dark look on her proud face.
"Such is the Law." 47
"What is the meaning of this intrusion, baron-
ess?" she demanded.
"I am merely obeying the commands of Her
Highness the Princess, Excellency," replied the
young lady demurely. She desires the presence
of His Weightiness in her apartments at once."
The chancellor sprang to his feet.with alacrity.
"In that case," he said, bowing low, "your Ex-
cellency will kindly excuse me."
As the door closed behind him, an exclamation
of anger burst from the lips of the duchess, a look
of rage and disappointment distorted her features,
and her hands became tightly clenched.
"Only yesterday," she said to herself bitterly,
as she renewed her pacing up and down the room
with furious strides--"nay, even this morning
they would not have dared to insult me so! It
cannot be stood!"
She stopped short; and seizing the bell, pulled
it violently, fiercely, three times. Three or four
maids came hurrying into the room with pale,
48 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
Bring out my boxes!" the duchess commanded
them sternly, "and make ready for immediate
departure. Nay," she repeated to herself as the
maids hastily withdrew, "it cannot be stood! I
cannot remain here to be insulted-to be no one-
I who was chief!"
After a few minutes she sank upon a couch,
worn out with her rapid pacing up and down, and
let her eyes stray round the spacious apartment.
She noted the splendour of the antique tapestry
that covered the walls, the richness of the silk
curtains, the luxury of the cushioned divans; and
she remembered the imperious temper of her
daughter-in-law, the wife of the reigning Duke
of Alpenstein. She heaved a sigh. She might
have ceased to be first in Tsarkovia, but in Alpen-
stein, she reflected, she would be less than no one.
Nay, she would not give up yet without a struggle.
After all, perhaps she had been too hasty-per-
haps everything was not yet lost. Again she rang
a sharp peal of the bell; and when a maid came
hurrying in obedience to its summons, she bade
"Such is the Law." 49
her not to hasten with the packing for a while.
Then she threw herself upon the couch; and
burying her face in her hands, reflected deeply for
some seconds. Suddenly she sprang to her feet
with an exclamation of triumph.
"Why, of course, there is Pulski!" she cried.
"Why did I not think of Pulski before?" And
she hastily left the room, and made her way to the
apartments of the princess with an air of resolution.
In the ante-room the baroness rose as she
entered, and made one of her deep, ceremonious
Her Highness is engaged at present, Excel-
lency," she said, "and requested me to see that
she was not disturbed."
The duchess drew herself up to her greatest
height, and frowned down upon the demure
curtsying figure before her.
"You exceed your duty, baroness," she said
severely. "As you are well aware, her Highness
is always disengaged for me."
As she spoke, she moved towards the inner
(M 506) D
50 The Reign of the Princess ATaska.
door, which opened into the room where the
princess was at the moment closeted with the
chancellor, but the baroness quickly interposed.
I beg your pardon, Excellency," she said de-
murely, as she dropped a curtsy even deeper than
the last, I beg your pardon; but her Highness's
orders were very strict. She is engaged at pre-
sent with His Weightiness the Lord High
Chancellor, in the discussion of a matter of the
gravest importance; and she requested me to
"Suck is the Law." 51
admit no one-not even your High-born Excel-
The eyes of the duchess blazed with anger.
"You forget yourself entirely, baroness!" she
exclaimed in a voice hoarse with passion, while
her white lips trembled. You forget your place
-and mine! You will live to repent this con-
duct!" As she spoke, she laid her hand on the
handle of the inner door.
SA NEW LAW.
HEN the chancellor had so hur-
\ riedly left the apartments of the
duchess, he followed the lady-in-waiting along a
wide corridor, down a broad and spacious staircase,
and through several richly-furnished rooms open-
ing off each other, until a closed door was reached.
This the baroness, after gently knocking, flung
open, ushering him into the presence of the princess.
The child-sovereign was seated in a great easy-
chair, almost lost amid the many rich cushions
against which her slim fragile form reclined with
54 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
an air of utter weariness and prostration. Weary
though the poor little body seemed, however, from
the face there had entirely disappeared the look
of listless languor which it had worn an hour or
two before. A bright red spot burned in each of
the pale little cheeks, the great dark eyes blazed
with a strange new light, and the lips were drawn
tightly together. What she had seen and heard
in the great square had given the little princess a
shock which had stirred her to the very depths of
As she saw the chancellor enter, she drew her-
self up with the lifelong habit which had become
an instinct with her, and composed her troubled
features, throwing over them like a veil her wonted
look of grave, calm dignity. In spite of her habits
of self-control, however, she could not keep a tone
of breathless eagerness and horror out of her voice
as she plunged at once into the matter that was
troubling her, without acknowledging the greeting
of the chancellor, who had dropped on one knee
before her and kissed her hand.
A New Law. 55
"Do you know," she burst out, while her
agitation found an outlet in her little white fingers
that twined nervously in and out together, "do
you know that they were going to hang a woman
to-day-to hang her?"
The chancellor bowed gravely.
I am aware of it, your Highness," he said.
"They said," went on the princess, still strug-
gling to be calm, "they said that I had ordered
them to do it. They showed me a paper with my
"Your Highness, of course, signed the warrant
for thewoman's execution,"the chancellor observed.
"All the state documents are signed by your High-
ness. I myself-"
signed it!" broke in the princess-" I signed
it! Oh, no, no, never!" And she clasped her
hands tightly together.
Excuse me, your Highness," put in the chan-
cellor in a soothing tone of voice. Everything, I
assure you, was done in regular form. I myself saw
your Highness set your signature to the paper."
56 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
You saw me do it!" The little sovereign's
eyes seemed to dilate, as she fixed them on the
chancellor's face with a look of horrified reproach.
"You saw me do it; and-and you did not tell me!"
There was silence for a few moments, while the
chancellor shifted uneasily under the steady gaze
of those eyes, which somehow had a way of making
grown-up people feel strangely guilty and uncom-
fortable when they rested upon them. Then
Naska spoke again-slowly, in a tone of dignified
gravity which was strangely out of keeping with
the childish treble of her voice.
That was very wrong, your Weightiness," she
said. "That was very wrong. You ought to
. have told me."
"Your Highness made no inquiry regarding the
contents of the paper," the chancellor said apolo-
Ah!" The childish voice was full of acute pain
as it uttered the exclamation. The princess's re-
proach had recoiled upon herself. "Ah, I was wrong
too-I should have asked! But I did not know-I
A New Law. 57
never thought they did such things!" She was
speaking to herself now, and had almost entirely for-
gotten the presence of the chancellor. Suddenly
a shudder passed over her, and her voice sank to
a whisper as she said, still speaking to herself,-
"And I might-I might have been too late!"
Then a new thought struck her.
Oh, how good-how good the good God was
to let me be in time! Oh, God, I thank Thee-I
thank Thee for letting me be in time to save the
little boy's mother!" She clasped her hands as.if
in prayer, and her voice became filled with solemn
The chancellor gazed at her in silence with a
curious look in his somewhat commonplace ruddy
face. Then suddenly she turned her eyes once
more upon him with a new horror dawning in
their dark depths.
"Tell me," she said in a strangely quiet voice,
"tell me, have I ever signed any papers like that
before? Has anyone-ever-been-hanged in
Tsarkovia since I was Princess?"
58 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
The chancellor evaded the question.
"In every country, your Highness," he said
hesitatingly-" in every country-even the best-
ordered and most
'i['if[ tions take place.
Human nature is
far from perfect;
will be commit-
ted, and the
S" Ho "How many
Years have I
signed the state
papers ?" the
I,- \ princess broke
How many years? Your Highness has of
course signed all state documents from the time
you were able to write your name, which was at
an unusually early age. Your Highness was
A New Law. 59
always an apt pupil-an unusually apt pupil"-
the chancellor smiled ingratiatingly, and bowed
towards the little figure in the chair-" and con-
sequently your progress was-"
"How old was I when I began to sign the
papers?" Naska interrupted impatiently, but still
speaking in an unnaturally quiet voice.
Let me see!" The chancellor flung himself
back in the chair, to which the princess had
60 The Reign of tIe Princess Naska.
motioned him, and closed his eyes. Leaning his
elbows on the arms of the chair, he fitted the points
of the fingers of his two hands together with the
most careful exactness, while he appeared to reflect
deeply. "How old was your Highness? I should
say you were not more than four years-certainly
not more than four years. As I said, you were
singularly well advanced for-"
Four! And I am eleven now. Has anyone
been hanged in Tsarkovia in the last seven
years?" Naska's eyes fixed themselves search-
ingly on the chancellor's face, though she still
"Why, your Highness," was the evasive reply,
"those seven years have not been by any means
untroubled. The period during the minority of a
sovereign is usually more or less a troubled one;
and there are those, both within and without
Tsarkovia, who think that a minor ought not to be
allowed to reign. Prince Boris, who, as your
Highness is aware, is, after your Highness, the
next heir to the throne of Tsarkovia, has many
A New Law. 61
friends and supporters, who would by this time
have put him in your Highness's place, had it not
been for the constant vigilance and the military
skill of General Raditski, the commander-in-chief
of your Highness's forces; and perhaps also the
schemes and counsels of your Highness's advisers
may have helped somewhat, though it hardly be-
comes me-" He paused, with a modest look on
his ruddy face; and Naska took advantage of the
opportunity to repeat her question.
Has anyone been hanged in Tsarkovia in the
last seven years?" she asked again.
"Why, your Highness," admitted the chancellor,
"in such troublous times, it would be quite im-
possible to keep order without an execution or
Naska's tongue felt dry, her throat seemed
swollen. She had to bite her lips, and clench her
little hands, and make a sort of swallowing move-
ment in her throat before she could ask hoarsely:
"How many executions have taken place in the
62 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
seven years? Oh, your Highness, I could not
possibly undertake to say without-"
Have there been as many as one in a year?"
The question was asked in a whisper full of the
intensest eagerness; and the little princess's eyes
fixed themselves upon the chancellor's face with a
look that seemed to burn into him.
The chancellor stroked his chin for a second
or two, and appeared to reflect deeply.
"One a year?" he said in the tone of one con-
sidering. Possibly, your Highness-probably-
yes, certainly I should say that is about the num-
ber." To himself he was saying, Ten times that
number would be nearer the truth".
Naska drew herself up rigidly, bit her lip with
her small white teeth till the blood came, and
twined her fingers in and out together so tightly
that they almost seemed to crack with the strain.
But it was all in vain: the flood of misery that
rushed over her swept before it the tiny barriers
of her lifelong self-control.
Oh!" she cried, with a sob that shook her from
A New Law. 63
head to foot, "Seven! Seven people killed-killed
by me! And perhaps-perhaps they had little
boys or girls who-who loved them!" Her head
sank among the cushions piled around her, and
she burst into a storm of tears.
The chancellor fidgeted uncomfortably on his
"Oh, your Highness," he said soothingly, "you
must not reproach yourself! you only-"
The princess sat up suddenly, and with a rapid
movement of her little hand dashed away the
tears from her eyes.
I-I was very little, and I didn't know," she
said as if speaking to herself. "Perhaps-per-
haps the good God will forgive me. But now-
now that I know-" She turned to the chan-
cellor with an air of firmness and resolution-
"there must be no more people hanged in Tsar-
Not even criminals-murderers, your High-
No one-no one!" she cried vehemently. "I
64 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
will not sign-" But here she was interrupted
by a violent fit of coughing.
"Yet, your Highness," the chancellor put in
quietly when the fit had passed-" yet the Bible
says, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a
"The Bible says, 'Thou shalt not kill'; and I
will not-I will not!" The princess's eyes flashed
fire, and she stamped her little foot on the ground.
"Your Highness is still young," said the chan-
cellor, still speaking in a quiet soothing voice.
" Is it not likely that men, who have lived five
times as long in this world as your Highness, and
have studied both books and human nature, must
know sometimes what is good for the state better
than your Highness? And if these men, who are
privileged to act as your advisers, tell you that it
is sometimes for the good of all the people of the
country that one should die-"
But here the princess interrupted him. She
had not listened with much attention while he
was speaking. Her great eyes had strayed out
A New Law. 65
of the window near her to the brown summits of
the rugged mountains that looked down upon the
city. Now, she turned them suddenly on the
chancellor's face with a look of grave, eager
scrutiny in their dark depths.
"The people called me Papiuska to-day," she
said in a serious voice. "Tell me-what does
The chancellor did not at once reply. He
threw himself back in his chair, and looked at
her meditatively for a few seconds in silence.
When he spoke, his tone was very grave.
It means, your Highness," he said, "that the
peace and welfare of Tsarkovia and its people are
in your hands. It means that we are all bound to
obey your Highness."
There was silence for a few moments, while
Naska clasped and unclasped nervously the little
hands that lay in her lap, and a strange look came
into her childish face-a look that had in it more
of fear than hope, more of pain than joy. It was
the look of a young martyr prepared to suffer
( 506) E
66 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
death at the stake rather than that of a sovereign
just come to power.
"It is a grave responsibility, your Highness,
for one so young," the chancellor said in the same
serious tone in which he had last spoken; "but
your Highness must not be afraid, we-"
But again Naska interrupted him, drawing her-
self up with her usual air of solemn dignity, which
her agitation had for a while driven away from
"A princess cannot be afraid!" she said in a
tone of quiet yet indignant rebuke.
"Ah, true!" exclaimed the chancellor, bowing
low, perhaps to conceal the smile upon his lips.
" I beg your Highness's pardon. What I meant
Besides," went on the princess, without heed-
ing the remark, "besides, the good God will
help me. And you," turning her eyes pleadingly
on the chancellor, "you will help me too?"
"Your Highness has only to command me."
Then ", she exclaimed with childish eagerness,
A New Law. 67
"you will make a law-at once, at once-and you
will make it right, so that it can never, never be
broken-a law that no one is ever to be hanged
in Tsarkovia again!"
It is not in my power, your Highness, to make
such a measure law," was the grave reply. It
would have to come before both Councils of State
before it could be passed; and, moreover, your
Highness, I could not conscientiously advise the
making of such a law."
"And yet you said that you are bound to obey
"Yes, your Highness, as one of your subjects;
but as your chancellor, your chief adviser, I am
under a still greater obligation to advise your
Highness to the best of my judgment, and-"
"Then you will not obey me? You will not
make that law?"
"I pray, your Highness, do not urge it! I
assure you that the enactment of such a law
would be the ruin of Tsarkovia. The lives of
your peaceable subjects would no longer be safe.
68 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
Tsarkovia is not as yet an entirely civilized coun-
try; a large portion of the people are little more
than savages; and these are only kept from acts
of violence and murder by the fear of death.
Then, within and without the state, the supporters
of Prince Boris, like the neighboring states, and
like the robber tribe among the mountains, are
only awaiting the slightest sign of weakness on
the part of your government, in order to rush in
and overthrow it. It is only, as I said, the
strong hand of Raditski, and perhaps the prudent
We must do right always-no matter what
happens," interrupted the weak but firm voice of
the little sovereign. I will not let anybody be
hanged in Tsarkovia again while I am Papiuska-
"Then, your Highness, if you are quite re-
solved on a policy which I disapprove, I must
resign the office I hold into your hands." The
chancellor spoke quietly, but with great resolu-
A New Law. 69
"You will not make the law? I cannot make
you do it-though I am the Papiuska?"
The chancellor smiled somewhat bitterly.
Your Highness can banish me from the princi-
pality," he said; "nay, I am not sure that the law
does not permit the sovereign of Tsarkovia to
impi-ison an unruly chancellor, if not to strip him
of his possessions, but-"
I will not do that," the princess put in gravely,
"for I think-I see-that you think you are doing
right; but I am very, very sorry. I wish-what
From the direction of the hills there came a
sudden loud rattling sound like the distant roar of
thunder. Naska glanced out of the window at
the sky; as far as eye could see it was one un-
varied, cloudless blue. But as she looked, the
sound smote again upon her ears, and this time
louder than before.
Suddenly the chancellor sprang to his feet with
a quick, eager movement, and hurried to the
window. There was a sparkle in his eye, and a
o7 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
look of newly-awakened interest in the face which
had been so solemn a moment before.
"Laired, by St. Praxis!" he cried, in a tone
of wild excitement and proud triumph, "Laired!"
In his moments of excitement the chancellor
was apt to make use of the language of the chase.
He was a keen sportsman; and the uncultivated
mountainous country of Tsarkovia, abounding as
it did in wild creatures, amongst which the boar
and the wolf were to be found, gave him ample
opportunities for indulging his taste.
By the ears of St. Fraska!" he went on ex-
citedly, quite forgetting the presence of the sove-
reign, By the ears of St. Fraska, it is cleverly
done! Bravo, Raditski, bravo!"
"But what-what is it?" asked the little prin-
cess, who had also risen to her feet, and was
looking out of the window in a helpless, bewildered
"Why, your Highness," he cried eagerly,
"don't you see they have snared him-trapped
him-the chief-Barboutsk himself! The ruffians
A New Law. 71
are showing fight, but Raditski will give it them
hot! See, your Highness-look!-below the
shoulder of the hill-don't you see the sunlight
glittering on the helmets of the Guard? Ah,
there again!" For once more there came that
strange rattling sound from the direction of the
hills; and this time Naska knew that it was a
volley of musketry.
"But what-why?"-she began hesitatingly,
with a new fear dawning in her heart.
Don't you see, your Highness," burst in the
chancellor in his almost boyishly-eager, excited
tone, "don't you see, we have never been able
to find his lair-his hiding-place-before; and
now-but it was your Highness yourself who
gave us the chance of finding it!" turning towards
her with a beaming face. Your Highness must
get the credit of the capture, which will do much
to secure the peace of Tsarkovia-we must not
forget to give your Highness the credit!"
"But why-how?" she demanded in a be-
wildered way. She, too, had risen, and was
72 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
standing at the window, her hand resting on the
"If your Highness had not pardoned the
woman," replied the chancellor, "we should be no
nearer finding the man's hiding-place. She showed
us the way to it."
He rubbed his hands together gleefully.
"You mean that she-his wife-led them to
it?" Naska asked breathlessly. She had grown
paler even than usual, and she leaned upon the
sill for support.
She did not intend to, your Highness," smiled
the chancellor. "They set her free, as your
Highness had commanded, and of course she
went straight to the lair; and then-why, the
dogs-the bloodhounds-did the rest! They put
them on the scent, and-ah, there again! By St.
Praxis, Raditski is giving it them hot!"
He turned to the window again, and in his
excitement forgot entirely the presence of the
little sovereign. By and by her voice recalled
him to a consciousness of it
A New Law. 73
"They made-the little boy-and his mother-
show the way to the father's hiding-place?"
Absorbed as he was in his own thoughts, the
chancellor did not notice the strained, unnatural
calm of the tone in which the question was asked,
and the gasps between the words.
"Yes," he replied, without turning his head--
"that is-Oh, see, your Highness-look!"
74 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
"They are cruel, cruel, wicked men; and I will
not have it-I will not."
This time the chancellor was forced to turn
round. Before him stood the princess, with one
hand clinging hard to the sill, while her whole
fragile little body trembled with anger and in-
dignation, and her great eyes blazed.
"Your Highness"-he began in helpless be-
"You must stop them-stop them at once!"
she burst out with passionate vehemence.
"Stop them, your Highness-stop the fight?
"Send someone-do something at once-at
She stamped her little foot on the ground.
"Send someone! Why, your Highness, the
fight will be over before anyone could reach the
place from here." There was a somewhat hurt
and disappointed tone in the voice of the chancel-
lor. "And, moreover-"
"Ah! can nothing be done-nothing?" cried
A New Law. 75
the princess in a tone which had changed from
passionate indignation to pain and despair, while
she flung herself down on her seat, and covered
her eyes with her hands.
"Pardon me, your Highness," the chancellor
said in a tone of grave respectful rebuke, "pardon
me if I say that this is hardly the right way to
look at the situation. In attempting to secure the
person of this Barboutsk-this chief-your High-
ness's troops are not only doing an important
service to the state, but exposing themselves to
considerable danger. These men "-with a wave
of his hands towards the mountains-" are not a
handful of robbers, but a powerful and unruly
tribe, who have always given trouble to the
princes of Tsarkovia, and have never yet been
completely conquered. Their chief-"
"It was cruel-wicked-to make the poor little
boy and his mother betray the father!" Naska
burst in, flashing an indignant glance at him.
" But if-if"-with a firm and more hopeful tone
in her voice-" if they take him alive, I will not
76 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
let them hang him. They shall let him go free-
"Then, your Highness, I must ask you to
accept my resignation." The chancellor spoke in
a very grave voice.
At the same moment, the door into the room
opened rather abruptly, and the Duchess of Alpen-
stein entered, looking somewhat flustered and
Is it your Highness's will," she began atonce,
"that I be refused admission to your presence?"
"You may come in," Naska said languidly.
"Then, your Highness, I am to consider myself
dismissed?' the chancellor asked in a low tone full
But the princess said nothing. She had fallen
back among her cushions with a look of utter
weariness, and scarcely seemed to hear the ques-
tion. Her eyes, which had strayed out of the
window towards the hills, had a strange absent
expression in them. The chancellor lingered over
his bow as long as possible; but as she did not
A New Law. 77
speak, he at length moved towards the door. In
passing the duchess, he bent low before her with
a half-concealed air of mockery.
I fear this is farewell, Excellency," he said
with a peculiar smile, "a long farewell. The air
of Dhalakassi, I believe, does not agree with your
Now Dhalakassi was the estate of Prince Boris,
who was known to be unfriendly to the duchess.
THE DUCHESS PLAYS HER LAST CARD.
stood for a second or two looking
after the retreating form of the chan-
cellor with an expression of fright
and dismay. Then, as the door
closed behind him, she advanced eagerly towards
80 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
"Your Highness," she said, dropping her voice
to an eager, earnest whisper, you will surely Oot
The little princess looked up with vacant eyes.'
The strain of mind and body which she had :en-.
dured during the last hour had left her almost
speechless and devoid of feeling.
"Permit what?" she asked languidly in a feeble
"He spoke of-of Dhalakassi, your Highness,"
the duchess replied, still speaking in the same half-
alarmed, half-anxious tone as before, "of going
there, I mean. Your Highness will surely not
permit that? I do not know what cause he -has
given your Highness for displeasure, but-"
"Why should he not go to Dhalakassi?" Naska
interrupted in her weak, tired voice.
"Why, your Highness, it would be dangerous
-most dangerous. Prince Boris has already a
strong party; and if it were known that your High-
ness's chancellor had gone over to him-'
What do you want me to do?"
The Duchess Plays her Last Card. 81
The duchess came a step or two nearer to the
great easy-chair on which the princess lay back,
limp and drooping, and dropped her voice still
lowei than before.
"I would recommend your Highness to send
out orders at once-at once, or it may be too late
-that his Weightiness is not to be suffered to
pass the city gates."
Naska moved her head wearily on her cushions.
No, I will not do that," she said.
But, your Highness, consider-"
"I will not do it!"
An angry flush rose to the face of the duchess,
and a sharp answer to her lips; but she checked it
back, and stood silent for a few minutes, apparently
deep in thought. Then a look of determined
resolution came into her hard, proud face, and she
hastily left the room. An hour later, the carriage
.of his Weightiness, the Lord Chancellor, was
stopped at the western gates of the city, and he
was informed that her Highness, the Princess, had
given orders that he was -not to be suffered to pass.
(M 506) F
82 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
"The Princess!" His Weightiness exclaimed to
himself in an incredulous tone, as his carriage
turned and drove back to his dwelling. "Ah, ha,
your Excellency, you are playing your last card;
but I will be even with you yet!"
Meantime, the duchess was indeed playing her
The Duchess Plays her Last Card. 83
last card. She had resolved not to give up the
power which she had enjoyed for ten years without
a struggle. A few minutes after leaving the prin-
cess's apartments, she had returned again. She
found the little sovereign still leaning back wearily
among her cushions, with her eyes straying out of
the window towards the hills, behind which the
sun was now beginning to sink. The noise of
firing had gradually become less and less, and had
now ceased entirely; and Naska caught an occa-
sional glimpse of scarlet, a flash of brass, or a
glitter of steel, as the column of soldiers, making
their way slowly down to the level ground, ap-
peared for an instant round the shoulder of a hill.
She watched them with a heart full of pain and
trouble. She was the Papiuska, the sovereign
of Tsarkovia, but it never occurred to her to won-
der whether her troops had won a victory for her,
and whether this fight would strengthen her seat
upon the throne, and secure the peace of the country
of which she was 'ruler. She kept asking herself
again and again with a shrinking feeling of horror:
84 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
"Have they-have they killed any poor men?
And the little boy's father-is he killed too? And,
oh, will he and his mother think that I sent them
to do it?"
She was roused out of her reverie by the voice
of the duchess addressing her.
Have I your Highness's permission," she was
saying, "have I your Highness's permission to
admit into your presence the Lord High Tutor
and the boy Pulski?"
Naska bowed her head absently, scarcely know-
ing what was asked of her, and too weary almost
A few minutes later there entered the room
a courtier clad in a rich but sombre costume of
black silk, with ruffles of costly lace, a powdered
peruke upon his head, and a diamond star blazing
on his breast. He was followed by a richly-
dressed boy of about the age of the little princess.
This was Pulski, the princess's "whipping-boy"
-the boy whose place in life it was to be
whipped for her faults, since of course no violence
The Duchess Plays her Last Card. 85
might be done to the sacred person of the sove-
Behind the boy came two lacqueys in gorgeous
livery, one of whom carried a rod. At a sign from
the Lord High Tutor, one of the lacqueys removed
the richly-embroidered jacket which the boy wore
and the other raised the rod in his hand as if to
strike. But just as it was about to fall on the back
of the boy, the weak but clear voice of the little
86 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
princess cried out imperiously, "Stop!" Naska
had turned her eyes from the window, and her
small pale face, which had looked so sad and
languid a moment before, had lit up with a look
of indignation and resolution.
"What has Pulski done to deserve whipping?"
The duchess came close to her and spoke in a
"Pulski, your Highness," she said, "is not being
whipped as Pulski, but as the representative of
your Highness. You will be pleased to remember
that you have this afternoon set the law at defiance,
disregarded the authority of your elders, and-"
." I won't have Pulski whipped for that!" The
voice in which the words were spoken was weak
and childish, but the tone was firm and reso-
The duchess took a step backwards, and a quiver
of indignation passed over her. For a second or
two she stood silent, biting her lip; then she spoke
in a tone of forced calm.
The Duchess Plays her Last Card. 87
"When a wrong action has been done, your
Highness," she said, "some one must bear the
punishment for it. It is impossible for the sove-
reign of Tsarkovia to be punished; and therefore
Pulski is here to bear the punishment for the faults
of your Highness."
It is not right to punish one person for another
person's faults," Naska said with a tone of earnest
conviction in her childish voice.
"Nay, but, your Highness-" persisted the
It is not right," the little sovereign repeated.
" I have been thinking, and I know." Then turning
to the lacqueys with an air of authority, she added,
" Pulski is not to be whipped. You may go; but
let Pulski stay."
The men respectfully obeyed her, after casting
a hasty glance at the-duchess, which showed them
that her defeat was complete. She had suddenly
drawn herself up rigidly, while her face seemed to
harden into stone. Then she bowed low before
88 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
"I beg, your Highness," she said, "to resign
my office of Mistress of the Palace."
The next moment she was gone, and the door
had closed behind her. The little princess heaved
a troubled sigh. Her reign had lasted only some
four or five hours, and already two of her most
important advisers had resigned their office!
"Pulski," she said in a languid voice, I won't
let them whip you for me again. I am very, very
sorry that they have ever done it, but I could
not help it-I was too. little to understand, you
It doesn't matter a bit, y'r Highness," said the
boy, as he wriggled into his jacket.' He was a
sturdy little chap, with a look of pluck, defiance,
and humour in his round face. It doesn't matter
a bit. I don't care for their lickings-not a snap!"
And he snapped his finger and thumb together.
But, Pulski, it is not right!"
The boy plunged his hands into the pockets of
his silk knee-breeches, and rattled the coins and
marbles in them
The Duchess Plays her Last Card. 89
"I wouldn't bother my head about that, y'r
Highness," he said lightly.
He was quite without any sense of awe, or
respect of persons; and
in his lips "y'r High-
ness" sounded more
like a nickname than a
title of honour.
"A princess must
always try to do right,"
said Naska gravely. .
And then she sighed
deeply, and dropping
her voice, she added
sadly: "It is hard to be -5
a princess, Pulski."
The boy gave a long
Well," he exclaimed, I'm jolly glad I'm not
a princess any way, y'r Highness!"
Why, Pulski?" she asked.
"Whipping-boy is bad enough," he went on
90 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
emphatically, but to be fixed up that way"-with
a glance of contempt at Naska's rich garments--
"to be fixed up that way, with a lot of stuff about
your feet so as you could hardly walk, let alone
running and climbing, and always having to
behave, with that"-he cast a hurried glance at
the door-" with that old cat always at your elbow!
"Oh, Pulski!" reproachfully.
"Jerusalem! I know what I'd do anyway, y'r
Highness, if I was a princess."
"What would you do, Pulski?" There was a
gleam of hope in the face of the little princess as
she asked the question.
Pulski glanced cautiously round the room, and
then lowered his voice to a confidential whisper.
"I'd run away, y'r Highness," he said.
There was silence for a second or two, and
Naska sighed again deeply.
Yes," went on the boy eagerly, warming to his
subject, "I'd run away. I'd get out of all that
rubbishing finery, and I'd get into somebody's
The Duchess Plays her Last Card. 91
breeches-mine would fit well enough-and then
I'd fill my pockets with all sorts of things to eat,
and slip out into the wood when no one was look-
ing. Shucks! it would be as easy as-as crackers!
You would only-"
But Naska interrupted him, turning the earnest,
steady gaze of her large dark eyes full on his face.
"A princess cannot run away," she said in a
I "r 1.
92 The Reign of tke Princess Naska.
tone of grave, sad dignity. But of course you
cannot understand," she added after a moment's
pause, with all the weariness of a world-worn
woman in her childish voice, "you are only a
"Why, y'r Highness, I am as old as you!" the
boy exclaimed in an offended tone.
"Yes," she answered reflectively, "but it is
quite different. You-you-are not- What is
For suddenly a burst of military music, some
distance off, seemed to rise on the air.
Pulski rushed to the window, excitement show-
ing in every feature of his face and every move-
ment of hisbody..
"Oh, y'r Highness," he cried eagerly, "it is the
band-the band of the Guard! They have gone
to meet them -they are playing the 'Victor's
March'! May I-may I go and see them, y'r
They? Who-what do you mean?" demanded
the little princess in an agitated tone, as she ner-
The Duchess Plays her Last Card. 93
vously grasped the arms of her chair with her tiny
"The Guard, y'r Highness-the Guard! Surely,
you know they've had a fight among the hills, and
-and- Oh, they're coming! Please-please, y'r
Highness, let me go!" In his eagernes and his
excitement, the boy fairly danced from foot to foot
like a cat on a hot frying-pan.
The princess waved her hand with a gesture of
Go-go!" she panted. But send-someone
-to me at once. I must see the general."
As the boy dashed out of the room in wild
excitement, she flung herself back in her chair,
and again grasped its arms tightly, as if for sup-
port in what was before her. Her heart thumped
loudly in her ears, there was a mist before her
eyes, and from head to foot her whole fragile body
trembled and shook.
GENERALL RADITSKI felt no doubt
whatever as to the reason of the sum-
mons which he had received to the
presence of the princess. She had of
course sent for him to congratulate him on his vic-
tory, to thank him for the vigilance and promptness
which he had shown in her service, and perhaps to
administer a gentle rebuke, after the manner of her
96 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
sex, for his having exposed his valuable life in a
toilsome and perilous undertaking, in which both
his age and dignity excused him from taking part.
As he followed the lacquey who was his guide
along the great corridor, and up the chief stair-
case to the apartments of the sovereign, his bronzed
face wore a smile of conscious merit and self-
satisfaction. If the general had a fault, it was his
professional vanity; and just at that moment, when
he was flushed with victory, and glowing with the
consciousness of having accomplished a difficult
undertaking with considerable skill, it was more
on the alert than usual.
He was so entirely without misgiving-so cer-
tain of the kind of reception which he was to meet
with-that, as he strode into the room in which
the little princess was sitting, he did not notice
how, at sight of him, she seemed to shrink back
further into her chair, while her clasp on its arms
appeared to tighten, and her great eyes dilated
with a look of fear and horror.
I crave your Highness's pardon," he said in
"To Dhalakassi!" 97
his somewhat blunt soldier-like manner, "for
appearing before you in this guise; but the sum-
mons I received was urgent, and I thought that,
under the circumstances, your Highness would
kindly excuse me."
He smiled with the air of a man who knew he
was sure of more than pardon; and as he smiled,
the ends of his enormous black moustache, which
had been carefully trained to turn upwards, seemed
almost to reach his eyebrows. This gave him
rather a ferocious look, especially as the wax, with
which they had been twisted to a point, had
melted with the heat of the day and the action,
leaving the hairs free to spread over his cheeks.
You were quite right to come. I wanted to
see you at once," Naska said, exerting herself to
the utmost to speak with the calm and dignity
befitting a princess.
But as he bent low to kiss her hand, holding
out his own, back upwards, to receive the tips of
her fingers, her power of self-control, acquired
through years of struggle, suddenly failed her
(M 06) G
98 The Reign of the Princess Naska.
utterly. Her sensitive nostrils had seemed to
catch the odour of gunpowder, and-perhaps-
blood! She felt she could not touch that hand.
Hastily drawing back her own, she once more
grasped the arm of her chair with all her strength,
while a sudden shudder shook her from head to
"Have you"-she began in a tone of ill-
disguised horror, and then stopped short. In the
midst of her agitation, she had still enough pru-
dence left to change the form of her question.
"Have you-are there many men killed?" she
The general took a step or two backwards,
surprise, indignation, and wounded feeling show-
ing in his bronzed and weather-beaten face. He
had expected gratitude and praise-he had looked
for these as his right-and he had been received
with what, even blinded as he was with triumph
and vanity, he could not interpret as anything
"'Our losses have been very slight, your High-
To Dhalakassi!" 99
ness," he replied stiffly-" only some two or three
killed, and perhaps a score or so wounded. With-
out any desire to
take credit to my-
self, I think I may
means the enemy?"
The general smiled
grimly as he asked
the question. "I
think your High-
ness won't be
troubled with them
had enough to last them for some time to come!"
"And the little boy's-I mean the chief-Bar-
boutsk-is he killed too?" The little princess tried
hard to make her tone sound indifferent as she
Ioo The Reign of tke Princess Naska.
spoke, but the look in her eyes betrayed the
anxiety she was feeling.
"We have taken him alive, your Highness."
"Alive! Oh!" Naska's two little hands left their
hold on the arms of the chair, and clasped them-
selves together, as she uttered an exclamation
below her breath.
But though the general could not hear the
words she uttered, he could see relief and thank-
fulness in her look and gesture. Why should
the sovereign of Tsarkovia feel relief on learning
that the robber chief, who had caused so much
trouble to her subjects, was not killed? he asked
himself in utter amazement, as he tugged at one
end of his moustache, while the other still bristled
upwards towards his eyebrows as threateningly as
By and by Naska turned towards him.
"Will you please tell them to bring him here?"
she said in a tone of forced calm, "the chief, I
General Raditski strode to the door, and open-