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THE UNKNOWN MR. KENT

in considerable awe of his new master; for he was threatening to wax voluble concerning his own sense of discipline when the visitor arrived. His advent was preceded by the persistent thumping of a stick on the tiled floor, by sundry titters and muttered gibes from the guardsmen in the cor- ridor, then by his own voice admonishing, some- what testily, some unseen person to exercise more care and not let him fall.

Provarsk saw an apparently infirm, decrepit and palsied man being half led, half carried into the room by a veritable giant of an attendant, as if the visitor were paralysed from the hips down- ward and could but drag his legs with difficulty.

"You discern my infirmities, sir," said the financial agent, "hence I crave your permission to be seated. In asking such a favour I—Ivan! What are you trying to do? You lumphead! Trying to let me fall and murder me, eh? Big, slow, clumsy lout! I'll get another valet! I will, so help me Bob! I will I"

His voice had risen by degrees to a querulous, irascible scream that ended with, * ' There ! There ! There ! Easy now ! That does it ! Now stand by me with the ammonia. And don't go to sleep if I get faint!"

He settled helplessly into the chair toward which the baron had waved a hand, and panted

laboriously as if the exertion had been trying, and

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