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Stories of Mystery edited by Rossiter Johnson
THE INVISIBLE PRINCESS by FRANCIS O'CONNOR.
We all laughed outright, except the donor.
"This is not Oberon's whistle, at any rate," I said.
"No," he answered, "the inspiration of this is from Mammon, whose gates I understood shut Mr. Smith out from his true love. A single blast on it will, I dare say, open them wide enough to let him in."
"Then it's as good as money to you, Fred," said Mike.
"That's what our old boss used to tell us," answered Fred ruefully, "when he gave us orders on a neighboring grocery, in lieu of cash for our wages. But I must confess I have now, as I had then, a prejudice in favor of the circulating medium."
"If so, whistle for it at once," said the other.
Fred looked at him, and then at Mike and me, with a puzzled expression which seemed to ask: Is this a crazy freak, or an absurd, insulting joke?
"Now," said the object of this scrutiny, turning to me, "I have a talisman for you also, wherewith to entice the Sultan's daughter. It is a ruby of rare size and color, and therefore valuable. But the power of the spell it is said to possess remains to be tested. I give it to you because in you, at this moment, are fulfilled the conditions necessary to exercise this spell; which you do by simply taking the jewel in your hand thus, and saying,--
Come, O royal maiden, come to me this hour."
"And she'll come, of course," said Mike, bantering me in his turn. "Now hoist your signal and hail the daughter of the Grand Turk, and let Fred pipe for his princess at the same auspicious moment."
"Amen!" I said, holding up the gem till the moonbeams blushed red in it, and calling out with a strange, impulsive sense of power,--
"Come, O royal maiden, come to me this hour."
But no responsive tooting of the whistle echoed from the lips of Fred. I looked toward him for an explanation of the silence, and beheld him spitting out the fragments of the instrument, which had gone to pieces in his mouth.
"What's all this?" he exclaimed, unrolling a little scroll of paper that had been compressed within it, and holding it up to the light. "See here, Joe, what do you make of this?"
"A draft for ten thousand pounds sterling, on the Bank of England, duly signed and indorsed," I answered after scrutinizing it carefully.
We turned simultaneously for an explanation, but there was no one to give it.
"I always suspected who _he_ was," said Mike, "but he's got no hold on me,--no claim to a bond signed with _my_ blood. See, there he goes!"
I looked, and saw a boat shooting across the stream with a swiftness that argued some optical delusion. That unmistakable figure stood in the stern, urging it with a single scull, and as it disappeared in the confusion of boats and the darkness, a superstitious suspicion crept over me that he might be the person Mike suggested. Soon the captain came on board, and on learning the absence of the boat and its occupant, he expressed considerable anxiety and impatience. A breeze sprang up and began to curl the surface of the water, and clouds obscured the moon. Then the wind freshened to a storm, and lifted the waves on the channel, and roared in the cypress forests above Pera and Scutari. Under the light sails already set, the ship tugged hard at her cable. Yet the boat did not return. The captain walked the deck nervously, and finally gave orders to weigh anchor, when just as our bark, freed to the wind and the current, sprang forward on her long voyage, the boat for which we were looking shot suddenly under the prow, and in an instant our mysterious comrade stepped in upon the deck from the bow-chains. As he did so, the light of the mate's lantern fell full upon him, and the scene it revealed will certainly never be forgotten by anyone who witnessed it.