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The Princess Sophia

The Princess Sophia
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Title: The Princess Sophia
Release Date: 2018-10-22
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME
———
SIR GEORGE TRESSADY.Mrs. Humphry Ward.
THE FARM OF THE DAGGER.Eden Phillpotts.
THE EXPENSIVE MISS DU CANE.S. Macnaughtan.
LADY ROSE’S DAUGHTER.Mrs. Humphry Ward.
THE PROFESSOR ON THE CASE.Jacques Futrelle.
LOVE AND THE SOUL HUNTERS.John O. Hobbes.
THE SECRET OF THE LEAGUE.Ernest Bramah.
VALERIE UPTON.Miss A. D. Sedgwick.
THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON.H. G. Wells.
KATHARINE FRENSHAM.Beatrice Harraden.
THE WAR OF THE CAROLINAS.Meredith Nicholson.
HISTORY OF DAVID GRIEVE.Mrs. Humphry Ward.
ROMANCE.Joseph Conrad.
THE PRIMROSE PATH.Mrs. Oliphant.
KIPPS.H. G. Wells.
MARRIAGE OF WILLIAM ASHE.Mrs. Humphry Ward.
THOMPSON’S PROGRESS.C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne.
CYNTHIA’S WAY.Mrs. A. Sidgwick.
RAFFLES.E. W. Hornung.
FRENCH NAN.Agnes & Egerton Castle.
THE FOOD OF THE GODS.H. G. Wells.
MARCELLA.Mrs. Humphry Ward.
SPRINGTIME.H. C. Bailey.
MOONFLEET.J. Meade Falkner.
WHITE FANG.Jack London.
LOVE AND MR. LEWISHAM.H. G. Wells.
ROBERT ELSMERE.Mrs. Humphry Ward.
THE BATTLE OF THE STRONG.Sir G. Parker.
THE AMERICAN PRISONER.Eden Phillpotts.
FORTUNE OF CHRISTINA M‘NAB.S. Macnaughtan.
THE AMERICAN.Henry James.
SELAH HARRISON.S. Macnaughtan.
A LAME DOG’S DIARY.S. Macnaughtan.
And Many Other Equally Popular
Copyright Novels.

———
NELSON’S LIBRARY.


The princess swept by him with an air of ineffabledisdain.

THEPRINCESSSOPHIAE. F. BENSONTHOMAS NELSON AND SONS

T H E
P R I N C E S S
S O P H I A

E. F. BENSON

THOMAS   NELSON   AND
SONS

{1} 

{2} 

TO
MY   DEAR   FRIEND
CRITIC,   SISTER
I   AFFECTIONATELY   DEDICATE
THIS   BOOK
E. F.   BENSON

{3}

CONTENTS.

  Introductory 5
I.The Girl is Mother to the Woman17
II.A Fool comes to Rhodopé33
III.Marriage-Bells and Systems50
IV.The Last Days of Prince Demetrius65
V.Enter the Centipede72
VI.The New Member93
VII.The Princess’s Club107
VIII.Plots and Counter-Plots135
IX.The Princess Returns167
X.The Princess is very much there184
XI.A Fool leaves Rhodopé200
XII.The Education of the Heir-Apparent209
XIII.The Plague-Spot spreads239
XIV.Bang!257
  Epilogue273

{5}{4}

THE PRINCESS SOPHIA.

INTRODUCTORY.

THE independent principality of Rhodopé lies, as everyone knows, on thewooded coast-line of Albania. Its territory, no greater than the area ofthe English counties palatine, is triangular in shape, the base of thetriangle (a line some twenty miles long if measured as the crow flies,but more like a hundred if we follow the indentations and promontoriesof that superbly fertile land), being washed by the waters of theAdriatic. It is bounded on the south by the kingdom of Greece, and up toits northern border extends the benign rule of that most pitiful andChristian monarch the Sultan of Turkey.

Rhodopé preserved during the Græco-Turkish War of 1897 (I am almostashamed to remind my readers of events so recent) a strict neutrality,though the offers made it by both one side and the other might well havebeen enough to turn a less level head than that of Prince Leonard, theruling{6} sovereign. For an Imperial Iradé, with promise of a definiteHatt (I think I have the terms correctly), arrived from the mostChristian monarch, prospectively granting the cession of Corfu to thePrince, when Greece lay crushed beneath the heel of the Sultan, if onlyhis beloved brother (so the Sultan was pleased to say) would join thecause of the imminently victorious Turks; while from the other side acleverly worded sketch pictured the immense advantage it would be toRhodopé if by an extension of its territory it was so arranged that theUpper Valley of the river Strypos—the Golden River, as it is notinaptly named—a plain of surpassing fertility, and odorous with thefinest growths of tobacco, should pour its revenues into the coffers ofthe Prince.

Indeed, Prince Leonard, when these two propositions, which arrivedalmost simultaneously, were under his consideration, must have had astrong head not to have been overcome by the intoxication of one or theother prospect. He knew—and sober and bald politicians tell me that hedid not overestimate the importance of his position (a malady mostincident to autocrats)—that the balance of power, inevitablydetermining the result of the war, as he sided with Turkey or Greece,was in his hands; also he would have the singular pleasure of perhapsplaying the deuce with that wonderfully harmonious comic opera theConcert of the Powers. A scribbled word from him would—and he was nottoo sanguine in so believing—give him Corfu if the envelope of{7} hisreply was addressed to Yildiz Kiosk, or, if to the Ministry of ForeignAffairs at Athens, the nicotic valley of the Upper Strypos.

A glance at the map is sufficient to show that the key of the crisis wasassuredly his. If he allied himself with Greece, in a few hours hisartillery could be coolly shelling the fortress of Janina, the slow,inevitable advance of the Turkish army down the defiles of the MelounaPass would be checked, and their overwhelming superiority of numbersagainst a vastly inferior force would be neutralized. They could notpossibly advance into Greek territory leaving so important a town asJanina in the hands of their enemy’s ally, and, indeed, the Sultan, withhis world-famous frankness, had confessed as much in his letter. HisImperial Majesty might advance, if he pleased, through Thessaly;meantime Prince Leonard, with his very adequate force of Albanians, menof the mountain and the sea, and the best-drilled soldiers in the world,would be quietly eating their way eastward, and at the end the Turkswould infallibly find themselves cut off in the enemy’s country. If, onthe other hand, the Sultan directed his first advance against Rhodopé,the Greeks would stream through the eastern passes, attacking instead ofdefending, and again take him in the rear. Besides, to advance intoRhodopé much resembled an attempt to take a hornets’ nest by daylight.For a score of years Prince Leonard had lavished the revenues of thecountry on its army and navy; English and German officers had drilledhis men{8} into a perfect machine of war; the steel of the great workshopsof the world had been perched in the mountainous and almost impregnablepasses into the principality; French engineers had exalted his valleys,and brought low his hills, flinging down military roads east, west,north, and south—the whole kingdom, a man might say, had been forgedinto one cannon. Nor had the Prince neglected the defence of thesea-board, though from the Turk there was little to fear in this regard.The only two ports on that rocky coast—Mavromáti and Búlteck—have longbeen the admiration of nautical Europe, and Gibraltar itself might learna lesson from the concealed galleries which defend these fire-belchingjaws of death.

On the other hand, supposing he allied himself with Constantinople, theconclusion of the war, as it actually took place, was much easier ofdemonstration, and quite as inevitable as the Pons Asinorum. Greecehad not the sinews to check the Turkish advance from the north-east.What, then, would be her plight if Prince Leonard’s armed cruisersbattered Patras, and landed troops in the Peloponnese? A nut in a hinge,a shuttlecock between two battledores, were in a more enviable position.

But, as we have seen, Prince Leonard held entirely aloof. He was anautocrat, his will was subject to no controlling House, and he possessednot only absolute authority over his principality, but commanded—whichis even better worth having—their complete devotion. What seemed rightin his{9} never seemed otherwise than right in theirs; it was through hisglasses (the Prince is a little short-sighted) that his ministersregarded the political outlook; and when it was known that he haddecided not to move in the matter, and his decision was communicated tohis Government, they were lost in admiration at this unique example ofprincely prudence displayed in his resolve to remain neutral, just asthey would have seen a splendid flash of the old crusading spirit if hehad determined to side with the Greeks, or nodded their heads in silentapproval of his marvellous insight into practical politics if he hadjoined the cause of the Crescent. The leader in the principal paper ofRhodopé—though not an official organ—printed in large type, commendedin terms of the most extravagant praise the wisdom of their greatPrince, who saw what so many less divinely-gifted rulers have failed toobserve, that a nation’s first duty is to itself, and would not lightlyplunge his people into the horrors of war. Yet, even as the firstedition was cried through the streets, the staff of compositors werecheerfully making pie of another leading article, prematurely set up,which compared Prince Leonard to Cœur-de-Lion, and singled him out fromthe whole of apathetic Europe as the champion who embraced the cause ofChristianity, as the only being to whom his religion was a reality, andwho would not suffer the accursed race to make havoc of Greece.

This premature leader sufficiently indicated the{10} reputed bias—if sowell-balanced a mind can properly be said to have a bias—of the Prince.His private sympathies, it is true, were entirely on the side of theGreeks; he was twice related by marriage to their Royal Family, and heloved the people who were so largely of the same blood as his owninimitable Albanians—yet he would not take up the sword for them. TheRhodopé Courier had hit the nail on the head in its second leader: hedid not wish to plunge his people into a war which must be expensive andmight cost many lives, while, considered as a practical question, hisacute mind, with the aid of a Blue-book, a few jotted figures, ameditative cigarette, soon revealed to him the fact that the UpperValley of the Strypos would not nearly repay him for the inevitableoutlay of a war. Moreover, the acquisition of this delightful piece ofcountry was not without its drawbacks. It would, he saw, have to begarrisoned and fortified, for it lay open to any attack that might bemade (though strictly against the Sultan’s orders, as the Armenianmassacres had been) from Turkey. Just now he had but little money tospend in such large operations, for a reason that will appear, andthough the Rhodopé Courier knew nothing of this reason, the main linesof its second leader were correct enough; war would be expensive both inlives and money, and there was no sufficient interest at stake.

The Prince’s reasons against espousing the cause of Turkey are easilyand succinctly stated. He hated the Turks as warmly as he hated thedevil,{11} regarding the two as synonymous; and he looked on them and theirdeeds, their natures and their names with that quivering disgust withwhich a tired man about to get into bed sees some poisonous reptilecoldly coiled in the sheets. He would as soon have allied himself with atribe of cobras. And so Rhodopé remained neutral.

This short disquisition about the Græco-Turkish War may, I am afraid,appear out of place to those who follow me to the end of this historicaltale; but it seems not so to me. In the first place, it will be found tohave introduced the indulgent reader to the principality of Rhodopé, andthe character of its eminent Prince, now in his middle age; in thesecond, it has rubbed up his memory about the Prince’s attitude withregard to the war, and given the true reason for a course of conductwhich was so widely discussed and even so freely blamed; for it is truethat the Prince was hurt, though not in his resolve, by the comments ofthe

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