He found my passports in good order. I permitted him to rummage through some of my papers.
“Ach! a damned scribbler, too!” coming across some of my notes.
“Quite right, Herr General,” said I. I submitted because I didn’t care.
My luggage was packed off to the station, where he saw that my ticket was for Paris.
“Good morning,” he said, as I entered the carriage compartment. “The devil will soon come to his own; ach!”
“My compliments to him when you see him!” I called back, not to be outdone in the matter of courtesy.
“And that is all, Jack,” concluded Hillars. “For all these months not an hour has passed in which I have not cursed the folly of that moment. Instead of healing under the balm of philosophy, the wound grows more painful every day. She did not love me, I know, but she would have been near me. And if the King had taken away her principality, she would have needed me in a thousand ways. And it is not less than possible that in time she might have learned the lesson of love. But now—if she is the woman I believe her to be, she never could love me after what has happened. And knowing this, I can’t leave liquor alone, and don’t want to. In my cups I do not care.”
“I feel sorry for you both,” said I. “Has the Prince married her yet?”
“No. It has been postponed. Next Monday I am going back. I am going in hopes of getting into trouble. I may never see her again, perhaps. To-morrow, to-morrow! Who knows? Well, I’m off to bed. Good night.”
And I was left alone with my thoughts. They weren’t very good company. To-morrow indeed, I thought. I sat and smoked till my tongue smarted. I had troubles of my own, and wondered how they would end. Poor Hillars! As I look back to-day, I marvel that we could not see the end. The mystery of life seems simple to us who have lived most of it, and can look down through the long years.
During the first year of my residence in London there happened few events worth chronicling. Shortly after my arrival Hillars disappeared. His two months’ vacation stretched into twelve, and I was directed to remain in London. As I knew that Hillars did not wish to be found I made no inquiries. He was somewhere on the Continent, but where no one knew. At one time a letter dated at St. Petersburg reached me, and at another time I was informed of his presence at Monte Carlo. In neither letter was there any mention of her Serene Highness, the Princess Hildegarde of Hohenphalia. Since the night he recounted the adventure the wayward Princess had never become the topic of conversation. I grew hopeful enough to believe that he had forgotten her. Occasionally I received a long letter from Phyllis. I always promptly answered it. To any one but me her letters would have proved interesting reading. It was not for what she wrote that I cared, it was the mere fact that she wrote. A man cannot find much pleasure in letters which begin with “Dear friend,” and end with “Yours sincerely,” when they come from the woman he loves.