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Page:Roy Norton--The unknown Mr Kent.djvu/73

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THE UNKNOWN MR. KENT

"Pardon me," the American interjected, "I do not seek the baron's friendship."

Before the amazed old nobleman could recover, Kent walked directly across the intervening space until he confronted him.

"Whether you like me or not, whether you object to me or not, My Lord Baron, is to me of the very slightest importance. There is but one attitude I expect from you, that which is current between gentlemen, and consists of courtesy. That I demand!"

There was an intense stillness in the room as they eyed each other, Kent inflexible, the king distressed, and the chancellor open-mouthed at such uncompromising words. The old baron was the most affected and stood as if stupefied with astonishment. For a pregnant time he met Kent's stare and then suddenly chuckled in his throat with a queer, wise acceptance. He turned to the king and exploded, much as an explorer might have done on announcing a discovery. "Why, Karl! You've got a friend who is a man! By Saint Dominique! This is a man!"

The chancellor twisted and frowned. The caustic inference was not lost upon him; but he had no opportunity for speech, for the baron advanced to the American, put out his hand and exclaimed, "My kinsman needs a few like you. It should straighten affairs out, unless I mistake."

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