“Tell us about the princes you met,” said Hinpoha eagerly, and the Winnebagos leaned forward in an expectant circle.
Veronica’s eyes danced as though at some amusing recollection.
“The first prince I ever met,” she began, dropping down on the floor beside the spinning wheel in the corner and leaning her head against it, “was Prince Ferdinand of Negol, which is one of the small Eastern provinces of Hungary. He was an old man, seventy years of age, and he had both the gout and the asthma. He sat with one foot on a cushion on a footstool and when it hurt him he made the awfullest faces. Not a bit like a story book prince, Hinpoha. He was at the Countess Mariska’s one afternoon when I played and when I was through he requested that I be presented to him.”
“Oh-h-h-h-h!” exclaimed Hinpoha under her breath in a thrilled tone.
“The Countess presented me,” went on Veronica, “and the prince conversed with me for a few minutes in a wheezy voice. He didn’t say anything wonderful, just remarked that I was a good child and had played well and should make the most of my opportunities, and so on. Then his foot gave him a twinge and he made a dreadful face, and the Countess took me by the arm and marched me away.”
Veronica laughed at the recollection, and the Winnebagos laughed, too, at the picture of the gouty old prince wheezing out paternal advice to the lively Veronica.
“Go on, tell us about the other one,” said Hinpoha, plainly disappointed that royalty had turned out to be so ordinary.
“The other one was a German prince,” said Veronica, and then laughingly added, “I don’t suppose you care to hear about him?”
“Oh, come on, tell us about him,” coaxed the Winnebagos.
“He was Prince Karl Augustus of Hohenburg,” replied Veronica. “He was traveling in Hungary for his health, or rather, for his wife’s, and he came to one of the Countess’s musicales. He wasn’t an ideal prince, either, although he was quite young. He was fat and red-faced and had little beady eyes that made you nervous when he looked at you. After the musicale was over Countess Mariska came to me in a great state of satisfaction and informed me that the prince had enjoyed one piece that I had played so much that he desired me to play it for his wife, who was ill in the hotel. The Countess packed me into her carriage and drove over to the hotel where the prince was staying informally, giving me minute instructions all the way over as to my conduct while there. I played for the princess, who was a thin, melancholy looking woman, and she seemed to enjoy it and thanked me quite graciously. A day or two afterward I received a package by messenger, and it was this little finger ring, a present from the prince and princess. I didn’t like the prince, but the ring was very pretty and I have kept it, because the princess probably picked it out and it gave her pleasure to do so. His wife was a Hungarian.”