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The Indiscretion of Elsbeth
by [?]

It was late when he finally got back to his hotel. But his little modern adventure had, I fear, quite outrun his previous medieval reflections, and almost his first inquiry of the silver-chained porter in the courtyard was in regard to the park. There was no public park in Alstadt! The Herr possibly alluded to the Hof Gardens–the Schloss, which was in the direction he indicated. The Schloss was the residency of the hereditary Grand Duke. JA WOHL! He was stopping there with several Hoheiten. There was naturally a party there–a family reunion. But it was a private enclosure. At times, when the Grand Duke was not in residence,” it was open to the public. In point of fact, at such times tickets of admission were to be had at the hotel for fifty pfennige each. There was not, of truth, much to see except a model farm and dairy–the pretty toy of a previous Grand Duchess.

But he seemed destined to come into closer collision with the modern life of Alstadt. On entering the hotel, wearied by his long walk, he passed the landlord and a man in half-military uniform on the landing near his room. As he entered his apartment he had a vague impression, without exactly knowing why, that the landlord and the military stranger had just left it. This feeling was deepened by the evident disarrangement of certain articles in his unlocked portmanteau and the disorganization of his writing case. A wave of indignation passed over him. It was followed by a knock at the door, and the landlord blandly appeared with the stranger.

“A thousand pardons,” said the former, smilingly, “but Herr Sanderman, the Ober-Inspector of Police, wishes to speak with you. I hope we are not intruding?”

“Not NOW,” said the American, dryly.

The two exchanged a vacant and deprecating smile.

“I have to ask only a few formal questions,” said the Ober- Inspector in excellent but somewhat precise English, “to supplement the report which, as a stranger, you may not know is required by the police from the landlord in regard to the names and quality of his guests who are foreign to the town. You have a passport?”

“I have,” said the American still more dryly. “But I do not keep it in an unlocked portmanteau or an open writing case.”

“An admirable precaution,” said Sanderman, with unmoved politeness. “May I see it? Thanks,” he added, glancing over the document which the American produced from his pocket. “I see that you are a born American citizen–and an earlier knowledge of that fact would have prevented this little contretemps. You are aware, Mr. Hoffman, that your name is German?”

“It was borne by my ancestors, who came from this country two centuries ago,” said Hoffman, curtly.

“We are indeed honored by your return to it,” returned Sanderman suavely, “but it was the circumstance of your name being a local one, and the possibility of your still being a German citizen liable to unperformed military duty, which has caused the trouble.” His manner was clearly civil and courteous, but Hoffman felt that all the time his own face and features were undergoing a profound scrutiny from the speaker.

“And you are making sure that you will know me again?” said Hoffman, with a smile.

“I trust, indeed, both,” returned Sanderman, with a bow, “although you will permit me to say that your description here,” pointing to the passport, “scarcely does you justice. ACH GOTT! it is the same in all countries; the official eye is not that of the young DAMEN.”

Hoffman, though not conceited, had not lived twenty years without knowing that he was very good-looking, yet there was something in the remark that caused him to color with a new uneasiness.

The Ober-Inspector rose with another bow, and moved toward the door. “I hope you will let me make amends for this intrusion by doing anything I can to render your visit here a pleasant one. Perhaps,” he added, “it is not for long.”