Jeremiah and the Princess - E. Phillips Oppenheim - ebook

Jeremiah and the Princess ebook

E. Phillips Oppenheim

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Opis

American Millionaire meets Ruritanean Princess, Jeremiah Vavasour Strole meets the Princess Marya of Pletz at a weekend party in the Hamptons on Long Island. The year is 1933. Much of the world has been plunged into economic ruin by the stock market crash. Marya’s country, Jakovia, is ruled by a playboy monarch who would rather spend his nights with courtesans in Paris, than pay attention to the starving people of his homeland. Michael Grogner, the chief of police and son of the Prime Minister, Nicholas Grogner, has followed the Princess to America to prevent her from seeking funds to overthrow her cousin, the King.

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Liczba stron: 426

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XXX

CHAPTER XXXI

CHAPTER I

FROM the moment of his arrival at the Hansard place on Long Island, even before he had turned in at the pillared gates, disfigured by their leering gryphons, Jerry Strole had been haunted by a quaint but persistent idea that this was to be unlike any other country-house visit he had ever paid. Perhaps the sequel to his presentiment was conveyed in that question he overheard whilst lounging on the terrace a few minutes after his arrival. The soft drawling voice which came to him from the room a few feet behind was intriguing, not only because of its slightly drawn-out quality but also because of its distinctly foreign accent.

"You seem to have collected a wonderful party of young men here, Alice. Are they all as incredibly rich as they appear to be?”

His hostess’ high-pitched voice, with its faintly apologetic note, sounded to Jerry for the first time in his life a little strident.

"This is not Europe, you must remember, Marya. Here one has to be rich in order to do anything at all.”

"And who of all of them has the most money?”

"Jerry Strole, I should say.”

"What strange name was that?”

"Jerry Strole, my dear. Jeremiah Vavasour Strole, he was christened, but you won’t hear him called anything but ‘Jerry’ round here.”

"I do not remember him.”

"You have not met him yet. He has only just arrived. I expect he is somewhere about on the terrace.”

Jerry, being a young man with a fine sense of punctilio, rose promptly to his feet and disclosed himself upon the threshold of the long suite of rooms which led out onto the terrace. Alice Hansard, his hostess, a fluffy-haired, elegant little matron still in the early twenties, was talking to a girl who was a stranger to him. There had been ready words of greeting upon his lips which somehow or other never found form. For a few moments he was absorbed, his momentary irritation evaporated. The question had seemed to him sordid, but there was nothing sordid about the appearance of the girl who had asked it. His first impressions of her were too vivid to be anything but slightly confused. He only realised that she was inclined to be small, that her figure was still immature, that she had the flawless ivory complexion and silky lashes of Eastern Europe and soft brown eyes of unusual size. As to her expression, at that particular moment he was not sure that it pleased him. She had an air of almost too great reserve and the mouth was a trifle over-supercilious.

"Say, you’re talking some, aren’t you, Alice?” he protested in his full, pleasant voice. “If you only knew the truth, I had to borrow the gasoline to bring me down here. Where’s the rest of the crowd?”

"My dear Jerry,” was the remorseful reply, “I am so terribly sorry. I forgot that everyone had gone sailing to-day. Too hot for tennis, they said. However, there are compensations for you. Behold the man arriving with cool drinks for the exhausted traveller, and I want to present you to a school friend of mine. Mr. Jeremiah Strole–the Princess Marya of Pletz.”

The girl held out her hand. She was entirely unembarrassed.

"Is it possible that you heard my very stupid question?”

"Yes–and I heard Alice’s reply, too. You can always depend upon her for false information. She is far too sweet and frivolous ever to know what she’s talking about.”

An elderly lady, inclined to be stout, with aristocratic features but with masses of ill-arranged and unfortunately yellow hair, emerged from one of the farther rooms and, walking with the help of a black ebony stick, approached them. She too spoke with a distinctly foreign accent, although it differed a great deal from the Princess’ in as much as it was guttural rather than Latin.

"I hear voices,” she declared. “I hear also the chink of that delightful ice. I awake from my sleep and I come to join you. Another young man, I see. Dear me, it reminds me, this, of my younger days in Vienna!”

"Jerry, let me present you to the Baroness,” his hostess said. “Mr. Jeremiah Strole–the Baroness de Sturgiwil.”

Jerry acknowledged the introduction suitably.

"I have met your husband, I believe, Baroness,” he said. “He dined with my father in New York one night. They were talking pictures half the evening.”

"Ach!” she exclaimed with interest. “It is your father then who has that very marvellous private collection. Yes, I have heard my husband speak of that visit. Your father promised to call when he came to Washington, but I do not remember that he has done so.”

"My father seldom leaves New York now,” Jerry confided. “We have a small place near here where we used to upend the summers, but it gets more difficult every year to induce him to leave the city, even for a night.”

"Come along, everybody,” Alice Hansard called out. “You must be thirsty after your drive down, Jerry.”

They sauntered out on to the most wonderful terrace ever built, with a great circular front overlooking the flower gardens and the sea.

"Say what you want, you people,” their hostess begged. “Jerry will take a highball, I know, and I am sure you will have orange juice, Marya. What about you, Baroness?”

"Orange juice, that I will not,” the latter declared, sinking into an easy-chair and producing a fan from her very capacious bag. “I shall take the special cocktail that your good maître d’hôtel prepares for me. Where are all your guests, my dear Mrs. Hansard?”

"Some of them are playing golf, but the others are out sailing somewhere. They decided that it was too hot for tennis. We shall get our evening breeze in a minute or two, though. It comes always from the water about this time.”

"Ach, I feel it already,” the Baroness declared contentedly. “Soon I shall need my fan no longer. This is the one country house in America, my dear Mrs. Hansard, which I love. You have defeated the mosquitoes, you have pleasant guests and you understand what the Baron calls the art of moderation. I am of the old school, but I am also modern. I have lived in too many different capitals not to understand that there is no universal code or view of life. At the same time, I am thankful to say that I can still be sometimes shocked. Here I am not.”

"It is that dear old Tom of mine,” Alice Hansard murmured. “He puts the brake on, whenever he thinks things are getting too rapid. All the same, young people are rather a problem to their poor mothers these days.”

"Gwen is not giving you any trouble, I hope?” Jerry enquired anxiously.

"Even in this country,” Alice laughed, “at the age of one year and one month, our children trouble their nurses more than their chaperones.”

The Princess leaned a little forward.

"I do not get enough of your delicious breeze,” she complained.

"Take her on to the wharf, Jerry,” his hostess suggested. “You will get all of it you want there and you can watch the others come in.”

Jerry rose promptly to his feet.

"Would you care to come, Princess?” he invited. “It is only a hundred yards or so.”

She hesitated for a moment and Jerry felt that he would have given a great deal to have known the real reason for that hesitation. Nevertheless, in the end she rose.

"I should like very much to visit the wharf,” she decided, “if Mr. Strole would be so kind.”

The Baroness looked after the two young people through her very powerful lorgnettes.

"A young man of good manners,” she declared. “Good-looking too. He carries himself as our officers did in the old days. Most American young men are good-looking enough but they are too large. I like them of finer mould. Your Mr. Strole pleases me. Tell me about him.”

"There’s not much to tell, I am afraid,” Alice Hansard replied, as she lit a cigarette. “The Stroles are one of our oldest families, and his father is still nominally head of the famous bank–Vavasour Strole Incorporated. He has spent most of his youth and middle age in Italy, though, and I do not think he ever goes near Wall Street now. Jerry did the usual things at college–nothing brilliant that I ever heard of. He is going in for diplomacy, I believe.”

"Not the banking?” the Baroness queried. Alice shook her head.

"There is too much money already,” she yawned. “Jerry startled everyone in his younger days by a remarkable capacity for languages. I remember when we were children together at Biarritz he used to chatter away just like a native.”

"Is he attached anywhere at present?”

"Not for the moment. He has had two of those trying-out jobs down in South America and he’s waiting now for something in Europe.”

"I like his type,” the Baroness declared. “He pleases me. I like his soft voice. I should like him next me at dinner.”

"Can’t be managed to-night,” her hostess regretted. “De Brett, the Belgian Ambassador, you know, an old friend of your husband’s, I believe, is dining–coming over from Joe Dimsdale’s place with some others. I’ve worn myself out with the name cards. I can manage the domestic article, but it is so difficult with you distinguished foreigners. To-morrow night you can have him with pleasure.”

"My dear, that will do excellently,” the Baroness agreed. “It will give me pleasure to improve my acquaintance with the young man. Christian, too, will be interested to hear of him. He spoke of his father as a very remarkable old gentleman, and Christian, as you know, is sometimes a trifle difficult on this side of the Atlantic.”

"Everyone who has artistic tastes like those of the Baron loves Vavasour Strole,” Alice Hansard remarked. “I’m rather afraid of him myself. I know he looks upon me as a little ignoramus, but it can’t be helped. I love life just as we have it out here. Something doing all the time–golf, picnics, sailing, tennis, dancing. I love it when one hasn’t a moment to spare. I have no time for abstractions.”

The Baroness smiled. The breeze was delicious and she was feeling very content.

"The least troublesome part of the world is like you, my dear,” she murmured.

“So you are in diplomacy?” Marya asked her companion, as she picked her delicate and tentative way in impossible shoes along the gravel path.

"A beginner,” he confessed, with a deprecatory gesture.

"And it is your father who is the famous banker?”

"Sure. Dad’s the head of Vavasour Strole,” he assented. “I fancy he knows more about pictures than money-making, though.”

"But he is very rich?”

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