“That I might end myself over the cliff there!” said the innkeeper, pointing to the wall of rock along the edge of which we were riding.
“See, then, that he is well ended!” said the Princess, briefly, to Jorian.
“Good!” said Jorian, saluting.
And very coolly betook himself to the edge of the cliff, where he primed his piece anew, and blew up his match.
“Loose the man and stand back!” cried the Princess.
A moment the innkeeper stood nerving himself. A moment he hung on the thin edge of his resolve. The slack gray face worked convulsively, the white lips moved, the hands were gripped close to his sides as though to run a race. His whole body seemed suddenly to shrink and fall in upon itself.
“The torture! The terrible torture!” he shrieked aloud, and ran swiftly from the clutches of the men who had held him. Between the path and the verge of the cliff from which he was suffered to cast himself there stretched some thirty or forty yards of fine green turf. The old man ran as though at a village fair for some wager of slippery pig’s tail, but all the time the face of him was like Death and Hell following after.
At the cliff’s edge he leaped high into the air, and went headlong down, to our watching eyes as slowly as if he had sunk through water. None of us who were on the path saw more of him. But Jorian craned over, regarding the man’s end calmly and even critically. And when he had satisfied himself that that which was done was properly done, as coolly as before he stowed away his match in his cover-fire, mounted his horse, and rode towards us.
He nodded to the Princess. “Good, my Lady!” quoth he, for all comment.
“I saved a charge that time!” said he to his companion.
“Good!” quoth Boris, in his turn.
We had now a safe and noble escort, and the way to Plassenburg was easy. The face of the country gradually changed. No more was it the gray, wistful plain of the Wolfmark, upon which our Red Tower looked down. No more did we ride through the marly, dusty, parched lands, in which were the ravines with their uncanny cavern villages, of which this Erdberg was the chief. But green, well-watered valleys and mountains wooded to the top lay all about us—a pleasant land, a fertile province, and, as the Princess had said, a land in which the strong hand of Karl the Prince had long made “the broom-bush keep the cow.”
I had all along been possessed with great desire to meet the Prince of so noble and well-cared-for a land, and perhaps also to see what manner of man could be the husband of so extraordinary a Princess.
PRINCE JEHU MILLER’S SON