Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Her Royal Highness: A Romance of the Chancelleries of Europe

William Le Queux

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Her Royal HighnessA Romance of the Chancelleries of EuropeBy William Le QueuxPublished by Hodder and Stoughton.This edition dated 1914.

  Her Royal Highness, by William Le Queux.


  ________________________________________________________________________HER ROYAL HIGHNESS, BY WILLIAM LE QUEUX.



  The mystic hour of the desert afterglow.

  A large, square wooden veranda covered by a red and white awning, abovea wide silent sweep of flowing river, whose huge rocks, worn smooththrough a thousand ages, raised their backs about the stream, a glimpseof green feathery palms and flaming scarlet poinsettias on the islandopposite, and beyond the great drab desert, the illimitable waste ofstony, undulating sands stretching away to the infinite, and bathed inthe blood-red light of the dying day.

  On the veranda sat a crowd of chattering English men and women of wealthand leisure--taking tea. The women were mostly in white muslins, andmany wore white sun-helmets though it was December, while the men weremostly in clean suits of "ducks." An orchestra from Italy was playingMusetta's waltz-song from "La Boheme," and the same people one meets atthe opera, at supper at the Savoy or the Ritz, were chattering over teaand pastries served by silent-footed, dark-faced Nubians in scarletfezes and long white caftans.

  The Cataract Hotel at Assouan is, at five o'clock, when the Easterndesert is flooded by the wonderful green and crimson of the fading sun,the most select yet cosmopolitan circle in all the world, themeeting-place of those seekers after sunshine who have ascended the Nileto the spot where rain has never fallen within the memory of man.

  The poor old played-out Riviera has still its artificial attractions, itis true. One can, for once in one's life, enjoy the pasteboard of theNice carnival, the irresponsible frolic of the Battle of Flowers, thenight gaiety of Ciro's, breathe the combined odour of perspiration andperfume in the rooms at Monte, eat the _gateaux_ at Vogarde's, play theone-franc game of _boule_ at the Casino Municipal, or lunch off thedelicious trout from the tanks at the Reserve at Beaulieu. But the Coted'Azur and its habitues, its _demi-mondaines_ and its _escrocs_ soonpall upon one; hence Society nowadays goes farther afield--to Egypt, theland of wonders, where there is ever-increasing charm, where the winterdays amid those stupendous monuments of a long-dead civilisation arerainless, the land where Christmas is as warm as our English August,where all is silent and dreamy beside the mighty Nile, and where thebrown-faced sons of the desert kneel Mecca-wards at sunset and praisethe name of Allah the One. Allah is just; Allah is merciful. There isno God but Allah!

  Some winter idlers go to Cairo, and there indulge in the gaieties ofShepheard's, the Savoy, or the Gezireh Palace, or the teas and dances atMena House, or the breath of freedom at Heliopolis. But Cairo is notEgypt. To see and to know Egypt one must ascend the Nile a farthereight hundred miles to Luxor--the town where once stood ancient Thebes,the City of a Hundred Gates, or to Assouan, the Aswan of the days of thePharaohs.

  It is there, on the borders of the glowing desert of Nubia, far removedfrom the stress of modern life, that one first begins to experience thenew joy of existence--life in that limitless wilderness of sky and sand,life amid the relics of a mighty and wonderful age long since bygone andforgotten.

  On that afternoon of early December a merry party of four young people--two girls and two men--sat at one of the small tables on the veranda.

  The gay quartette, waited upon by Ahmed, an erect bronze statue,picturesque in his white caftan and red sash, were laughing merrily asthe elder of the two men recounted the amusing progress of a party whomhe had accompanied on camels into the desert that afternoon.

  Around them everywhere was loud chatter and laughter, while theorchestra played dreamily, the music floating across the slowlydarkening river which flowed on its course from unexplored regions ofCentral Africa away to the far-distant Mediterranean.

  "I went across to Philae this morning to see the temples--Pharaoh's Bed,and the rest. Hardy pulled me out of bed at six o'clock," exclaimed theyounger of the two men--a tall, clean-shaven Englishman of a decidedmilitary type. "But I must confess that after flogging the Nile fornearly three weeks and Mahmoud taking us to see every temple along itsbanks, I'm getting just a bit fed up with antiquities and ruins."

  "Oh, my dear fellow," cried the elder man in quick reproach, "you mustnever admit such a thing in Upper Egypt. It's horribly bad form.Mademoiselle will agree--eh?"

  And the broad-shouldered, handsome man of thirty-five or so in a cleanwhite linen suit leaned back in his chair and laughed at the pretty,dark-haired vivacious French girl he had addressed. She was not morethan twenty, with a refined oval face, wonderfully expressive eyes, anda small delicate mouth which parted as she shrugged her shoulders andsmiled back at him in assent.

  "Ah, Waldron, but you're a diplomat, you know!" replied the younger man."You fellows always say the right thing in the right place. We chapsin the Service, however, have a habit of speaking bluntly, I fear."

  "It is just as easy to be diplomatic, my dear Chester, as to beindiscreet," replied the Honourable Hubert Waldron, M.V.O., who wassecond secretary at His Britannic Majesty's Embassy at Madrid, and wasnow on leave for a winter holiday.

  Not yet forty, a smart, well-groomed, athletic, clean-cut Englishman, henevertheless possessed the distinct Foreign Office air, and was, at thesame time, a cosmopolitan of cosmopolitans. Essentially a ladies' man,as every good diplomat should be, he was, in addition, decidedlyhandsome, with pale, refined features, a strong face with straight nose,a pair of dark, deep-set, thoughtful eyes, and a dark, well-trainedmoustache.

  At Court functions, balls, receptions, official dinners and such-likefestivities when, with his colleague, he was bound to be on show in hisperfect-fitting diplomatic uniform, women always singled him out as astriking figure, as, indeed, he was, and at Stockholm, Brussels, andLima, where he had respectively served as attache he had attained greatpopularity among the _corps diplomatique_, and the gay, giddy world ofSociety which, in every capital, revolves about it.

  The quartette had made each other's acquaintance since leaving Cairo,having found themselves fellow-passengers on board the fine newriver-steamer, the _Arabia_--members of a smart party of wealthy idlerswhich included two of America's most famous millionaires. The partynumbered thirty, all told, and during the three weeks they had travelledtogether and had all spent a time which each declared to be the mostdelightful of their lives.

  The younger Englishman was Chester Dawson, son of Sir Forbes Dawson,M.P., and a lieutenant in the 19th Hussars, who, like Waldron, was onleave, while of the two ladies the younger was French, though she spokeEnglish perfectly, and the other, ten years her senior, was slightlyangular and decidedly English.

  Mademoiselle Lola Duprez had attracted Hubert Waldron from the firstmoment when they had met on the upper deck an hour after leaving Cairo.She was bright, vivacious, and extremely _chic_, possessing all thedaintiness of the true Parisienne without her irritating mannerisms.Slightly _petite_, with an extremely pretty and refined face, big eyes,a perfect complexion and a slim, erect figure, she was--judged from thestandpoint of a connoisseur of female beauty as Hubert Waldronundoubtedly was--unusually beautiful and attractive. On many of theexcursions into the desert when the party had landed to visit theancient monuments, the pyramid of Sakkara, the Tomb of Thi, the templesof Abydos Denderah and the rest, Hubert had ridden a donkey at her side,or spent
the long, idle, sunny afternoon hours on deck, lolling in thepadded cane-chairs sipping coffee and gossiping as the steamer, with itsArab _reis_ or pilot squatting in the bow smoking cigarettes, made herway up the broad stream.

  Thus, in the three delightfully lazy weeks which had gone, they hadbecome most excellent friends, while Chester Dawson had, with all theirresponsibility of the young cavalry officer, admired a strikinggo-ahead American girl named Edna Eastham who, with her father, had comefrom Chelsea, Massachusetts. Mother, father, and daughter were aloud-speaking, hard-faced trio who bought all the false antiques offeredto them by Arab pedlars.

  Mademoiselle's companion, a Miss Gabrielle Lambert, was a woman of quitea different stamp. She was nearly thirty, with a rather sad, thoughtfulface, but unmistakably a lady by birth and breeding, half English, halfFrench, though she never spoke much of herself. Travelling with the twogirls was an old and peculiarly shrewd