THE STOLEN PRINCE Edit
By Henriette Beauchamps Edit
Translated by Wade Manning, from the German version, for Short Stories 1899
A bright red velvet carpet was unrolled and spread upon the platform at the railway station, and so arranged as to fetter the attention of the moving crowd.
The boots of the inspectors were polished to almost an unnatural degree of brightness, while the faces of the little lamplighters were (taking them altogether) what one might call clean.
In other words, Charing Cross outdid itself to-day.
"What's up?" asked one railway employee of another.
''Royalty," he answered shortly. "Royalty going on the Continent. I wish I could go somewhere," he muttered discouragedly.
The first speaker whistled a patriotic air, and looked critically as he shrugged his shoulders.
"I will only hope," said he, "that the same thing doesn’t occur as that which happened to a young prince who came over to England recently. Did you hear about it?"
"I never hear anything," answered the other employee illhumoredly. "I have more to do than to listen to such gossip."
"But I will tell you now, if you will hear me," replied the other, not at all disheartened by his friend's brusqueness. So, drawing closer to his companion, he related the following story :
One day a carriage stopped in front of the station in good season for the scheduled train. This was immediately followed by another in which was a representative of the Embassy.
The young prince who was expected on the accommodation train from Dover wanted to visit London in the strictest incognito, and it was his most earnest wish that his arrival be ' without ceremony and ostentation.
Directly under the large clock so well known in Charing Cross Station stood two men in earnest conversation.
"You may well call me an old ass if this thing falls through, Jim. Why, old Bob Creamo says it is as sure as if he had already had £ 10,000 in his pocket," said the taller one, looking intently at a carriage being driven up to the platform.
An aged, clean-shaven coachman, whose coat was somewhat too large for him, was seated on the box. In the vehicle was an elegantly dressed young man with a distinguished-looking mustache.
"That's he ! See him on the box ! That's Bob Creamo ! Go and say to him that the Prince will undoubtedly be in the first coach on the train. I will tell the people to make way."
"What do we get, old fellow if this thing isn't a go?" remarked the more pessimistic Jim, thoughtfully.
"Don't you know, Norris? Have you never taken part in a deal like this? I hardly think anything serious will happen. They have promised not to murder him."
"So they say," muttered Jim Norris doubtfully.
"What they will have is £ 10,000 sterling," replied his chum gloatingly. ''Go over, Jim, and look at the time-table and see how long before the train is due."
Norris did as he was bid and returned and reported that it would be in the station in five minutes.
"Good," said his companion. "I will keep my eye on Bob Creamo. You can give your attention to the lad's own carriage."
"If he will only keep away from the waiting-room our game is won," and chuckling to himself he continued, "We will follow him in a hansom; that's our plan, isn't it, Jim?"
"That's right, old man."
As both men strolled forward to fulfill the duties they had undertaken, the carriage from the Embassy was driven to the end of the platform.
The train steamed over the bridge and came slowly into the station. From every coach streamed the passengers. The baggage-masters rushed with trunks, valises, hat-boxes and steamer rugs, hurriedly placing them with their owners in hansom cabs and four-wheelers.
The well-dressed young man with the fierce-looking mustache, whom Bob Creamo had driven to the station, was watching intently the arrivals. Suddenly, hat in hand, he approached and addressed an aristocratic youthful-looking gentleman, who had just alighted from one of the foremost coaches and who appeared helpless and confused with the hurly-burly of Charing Cross.
"Par ici, votre Altesse, s'il vous plait."
Both men walked to the end of the platform, entered the carriage, the door was closed, and Bob Creamo drove quickly out of Charing Cross station.
The two men who had spoken so earnestly with one another under the great clock sprang quickly into a hansom and followed the carriage with an expression of great satisfaction on their faces.
"I'm quite sure I saw no Prince leave the train," said the station-master a few moments later to the Attache who came in the carriage from the Embassy.
"Perhaps he has gone over alone to the hotel," he continued, casting his eye around the place.
The Attache, greatly disturbed, declared this was not possible, as the Prince had telegraphed from Dover to meet him.
"His trunks are in the baggage-room," said one of the inspectors, "but where is he?"
"He certainly could not fly away," answered the baggage master with a wise air.
"The best thing to do," he said, turning to the Attache, "is to inquire at the hotel, and if he's not there come back at once."
The Attache, now greatly excited and angry, as he realized the disappearance of the Prince would cause him some trouble, did as he was told, but soon returned breathless.
"He is not there!" he cried, "neither the Prince nor his valet has arrived."
His Highness had certainly disappeared.
"Well, you may hang me if he is in Charing Cross Station," muttered the inspector as the Attache departed.
The daily papers issued extras that day with headlines in the largest type :
"A PRINCE STOLEN. A Suspected Anarchist Conspiracy."
The extras naturally gave a most exaggerated account of this extraordinary occurrence, and were sold and devoured in the shortest time possible.
The street venders gathered in groups to discuss the robbery, regardless of waiting customers or the purloining of the crossing sweepers. The newsboys were besieged. On the 'busses, in the shops, at the hotels, the missing Prince was the one subject of conversation, while in higher circles no other topic was allowed.
By ten o'clock that night Charing Cross Station was deserted. Abput eleven o'clock of the same evening one of the two men who followed the Prince in a hansom cab came back to Charing Cross and stocK^ again beneath the large timepiece.
Two minutes later Detective Brading, of the Scotland Yard force, leisurely smoking a cigar, joined the waiting individual.
“Come over to the office, Norris," said the detective, as he acknowledged the man's greeting, "we can talk there without being disturbed."
"No, no; not in your office. We can arrange here, Mr. Brading. You received my telegram?"
Jim Norris looked cautiously around and was silent for a moment ; then his restless eyes fell on Detective Brading's immovable face.
"When you think it worth while," began Norris, with a knowing look, "I can — I can tell you exactly where "
"What! what!" exclaimed Brading.
"Where at this very hour the lost Prince is," said Jim, slowly emphasizing each word.
"What's that !" cried the detective, taking a step nearer and betraying some agitation, "are you speaking the truth, Norris?"
"God's truth," protested Norris, casting his eyes heavenward.
"I will tell you what, Norris, if the Prince is really in your hands or the hands of your pals," and puffing his cigar slowly, "you will take me to the place where you have him secreted. I will see that you receive the usual reward."
"It is a bargain," said Jim joyfully. "I want nothing more to do with the blackguards ; they go too far, they go too far ; there's no limit to them."
"And they will receive their just punishment, too," remarked the detective decidedly.
“This is the way it happened," commenced Norris, letting his eyes rove suspiciously around the deserted station. "Some Italian anarchists in Bath street, Clerkenwell, determined to kidnap the young Prince, and all their plans worked so smoothly that the Prince is now sitting in a back room in Bath street, carefully guarded by the conspirators, and they intend keeping the young fellow there for two or three weeks, when a handsome sum will be demanded for his return/'
"As a ransom," said the detective knowingly.
"Exactly, as a ransom," returned Jim.
Then Norris gave the addresses of those implicated and, in fact, all he knew about the affair, to the detective, who wrote this information carefully in a small notebook.
"Now," said Norris, expectantly, "what do I get?"
Without replying Detective Brading turned and motioned to a man who had kept in the shadow at a distance.
"I don't want to exactly arrest this man, Perkins," he remarked to him ; "but keep him in custody for about one hour. Give him a glass or two in the meanwhile.''
"Detective Brading," said Norris, with a grieved air, "is this the way you—^ — "
"And Norris," said the detective, taking no notice of the interruption, "if you will visit me in a week or so, I will probably have a pound or two for you."
"A pound or two?" screamed Norris indignantly, "after all I have told you! Only think, a Prince travels and is stolen. I come and give away the whole story, and then you speak of a pound or two. It is a Prince, a royal Prince, bear that in mind, and you come and offer me a mere bagatelle like a pound or two. Seems to me," said Norris with a growing bitterness, "that princes are unusually cheap nowadays."
"Now, look here, Norris," said the representative from Scotland Yard in an apologetical tone, "this affair stands this way. Your kind always comes too late with his confession. All you have told us we knew in time to have the Prince leave the train at Cannon street and come peacefully into London on the underground railway. The young man that your friends have kidnapped and are holding in Bath street is Detective Peron, who is a very fine linguist, and if he uses his ears and eyes for an hour or two he will "
"What!" cried Norris, reeling and striking his head with the back of his hand, "the deuce take it !"