Never was a go-between more nonplussed, but he promised with a readiness and a sincerity which indicated that he was keenly aware of the fact that Kalora held him in her power. The minx had read his secret without an effort!
Mr. Pike was waiting in the avenue of potted palms when the greatest scholar of southeastern Europe, now reduced to the humble role of messenger boy, came to him, somewhat flurried and breathless, and slipped a small envelope into his hand.
Popova rather curtly refused to renew his acquaintance with occidental fizzes, and waited only until he had announced to Mr. Pike that the Princess wished to emphasize the advice contained in the letter and to assure the presumptuous stranger that it was meant for his welfare.
This is what Mr. Pike read:
My very good friend:
I have protected you, not because you deserve protection, but because I like you very much. You must not come to the palace grounds again. They are now under double guard and, if I attempted to meet you, no doubt a whole company of our big soldiers would surround you and surely you could not overcome so many powerful men. I am thinking only of your safety. I beg you to leave Morovenia at once. Your danger is greater than you can imagine. What more can I say, except that I shall always remember you? Sincerely,
Mr. Pike read it carefully three times and then told himself aloud that it was not what he would precisely term a love-letter.
“I may have made an impression, but certainly not a ten-strike,” he thought to himself, as he folded up the missive and put it into the most sacred compartment of his Russia-leather pocketbook, along with the letter of credit.
“I fear me that the incident is closed,” he said. “I would stay here one year if I thought there was a chance of seeing her again, but if she wants me to fly I guess I had better fly.”
That evening, after an earnest controversy with the manager over a very complicated bill, studded with “extras,” Mr. Alexander H. Pike, accompanied by dragoman, leather trunks, hat-boxes and hold-alls, drove away to the transcontinenta express, and slept soundly while crossing the dangerous frontier.
Possibly he would not have slept so soundly if he had known that at four o’clock that afternoon the Princess Kalora had been idling her time in the palace garden, walking back and forth near the high wall.
She had told him not to come, and of course he would not come. No one could be so audacious and foolhardy as to invite destruction after being solemnly warned—and yet, if he did come, she wanted to be there to speak to him again and rebuke him and tell him not to come a third time.
She went back to her apartment much relieved and intensely disappointed.
Such is the perverseness of the feminine nature, even in Morovenia.