Roy Norton--The unknown Mr Kent/Chapter 14
KENT, breakfasting in his room, heard not only the singing of birds in the garden, but a persistent and increasing monotone of sound that pervaded everywhere, caused by the shuffling of many feet along the streets outside the palace walls, the indistinct hum of many voices, the grating of cart wheels over the roads, and an occasional shrill call rising above others. The atmosphere itself seemed charged and ready for a single spark to cause the explosion of revolt. At this hour of the morning, ordinarily, Marken would have been absorbed in industry, an industry that he had compelled and that had become habitual. This he thought, bitterly, was the result of too much prosperity. This was the price for arousing a slothful, shortsighted people and teaching them roads to wealth and ambition. The poorest churl in the fields had learned the value of his own earning power and profited, while others, who had been worse than hopeless, had seen the way to independence. Kent wondered if, after all, he had not taught them greed instead of industry, independence, and patriotism. He heard some one coming rapidly along the corridor, the guard's heels coming to a salute, and the door opened and the king entered, his whole person- ality radiating indignation.
"This is an outrage!" he declared. "I found a guard in front of my door this morning who told me of your arrest and confinement to your room. He made no objection to my coming here and so I came at once. We will go immediately and have Provarsk seized. Come ! "
Kent slowly shook his head.
"I can not," he said. "I am under parole of honour to remain here."
The king stood aghast.
"You gave your word to that treacherous "
"Yes, and shall keep it."
" Then I will at once go alone and act. I 'll "
"No, no ; let us consider. " Kent checked him.
"But but it may mean revolt! How do we know that he has not bribed or overcome enough of the guards; that "
"No fear," said Kent easily. "Some of them, perhaps ; but I have certain reason to believe that on Baron Von Glutz' return there will be um-m- mh a change in the situation."
" But Kent ! Kent ! Are you mad ? " demanded the king. "Time! Time is against us. You don't know what is happening! What do you think of this?" he cried, thrusting a paper toward the American.
Kent took it, said, "Have a seat, Your Maj- esty," and read. It was a proclamation with all official seals and form, calling upon the inhabi- tants, and especially those employed in the man- ganese mines, to assemble in the Market Place at eleven o'clock of that day, where communications of the utmost importance to their welfare and the welfare of the state would be made. Kent read it slowly to himself, gave a wry twist to his mouth, and looked at his visitor.
"I observe," he said, with quiet meaning, "that it does not end quite as royal decrees customarily do. It does not bear the words 'God save the King."
The king, who had been twisting impatiently on his chair, exclaimed, "No, it doesn't. I noted that point."
"When did this appear?" the American asked, recalling the hour when the attack had been made on him.
"It was posted up by the chancellor's orders between one and two o'clock this morning. The guard told me so."
"The guard, then, was friendly?"
"Yes, and very much distressed. He apolo- gised to me, and said that he could but obey his orders; that he could not understand. I called him inside and closed the door, and told him to tell me all he knew. He did. He says that Pro- varsk has won over some of those adventurers he first brought here, and that they have been talk- ing to all the others in the guard room." "Did this man get any inkling of Provarsk's in- tentions ? "
"Yes. Enough to cause him and all the others that are loyal to be highly alarmed. These passed the word around that they believed they could best serve the throne and you by obeying up to a certain point. They wish to know what to do. "
"But Provarsk's intentions?" interrupted Kent, bringing the king back to the point.
"Provarsk is going to announce this morning that the mining concession has been turned over to him, wrested from you and John Ehodes in be- half of the people by him, and he will promise that hereafter the profits shall be shared by those who do the work. After that he proposes to inflame the people to demonstrate in force and demand of me that a like course shall be pursued with all other state holdings, and that those which the state does not completely own shall be returned to the original or minority owners to be run here- after without state interference. My guard gath- ered all this from stray talk made by Provarsk 's henchmen, who, already certain of success, are beginning to boast of the authority they are going to have. "
Kent's eyes glowed with interest.
"That guard of yours," he declared, "is due for a good commission after this is over. I seem to have overlooked him." He meditated for a moment, and then to the king's surprise, as if vastly relieved, leaned back in his chair and laughed.
"Amateur work, after all!" he declared. "I'm disappointed! Provarsk had me guessing, last night. I thought he was a much cleverer fighter than I had believed him to be. He always boggles in the end."
"I don't see the joke!" exclaimed the king, but more hopefully.
" Why, it is this way, " explained Kent. " Plain as day now. He poses as a national benefactor, but no one would be able to tell, if he did actually get possession of the mines, what the profits are. He probably would divide up some of the profits as long as it served his purpose. And after that !" He snapped his fingers derisively. "In the meantime he insures my being driven from Marken, and forces you to turn over every- thing that produces an income ; also to let govern- ment controlled private industries revert to those private individuals who own the outside stock. That includes the Marken mineral springs in which he has invested every dollar he has in the world, and all he could borrow. It's so easy now that it's scarcely interesting!"
"But the people don't know that you have the concession," objected the king. "They think I still own the mines for the state, and that the profits have been turned to the redemption of the state bonds ; and they are confident that after the bonds are redeemed I'm going to spend more money for the good of the state. The minute Provarsk exposes the whole affair, they will lose confidence in me and my intentions."
The American regarded the king's distress with sympathy.
"But, suppose you had never granted the con- cession, and that you did own the mines, free from everything?"
"As soon as your bonds have been met, I'd give them the profits all of them ! You certainly know that I do care for my people and am unselfish ! I want to be just what they have thought me to be, Kent, the best king that Marken ever had! I want to be able to do again what I have done, walk out amongst them, and know that they respect me as a king, and like me as a man and a friend."
He spoke impassionedly, voicing the hunger of his mind, confessing his dream, while the Ameri- can watched him kindly as an elder brother might watch the harassments of a younger one when about to tender sympathy and assistance.
"All right!" he said, bluntly. "I think we can fix that up. It may be foolish on my part damned foolish! But a man can't pass through this world without being foolish once in a while. I'm going to give you that concession."
The king's face expressed many emotions, and among them solicitous affection.
"But but Rhodes?" he asked excitedly. "What will Rhodes think of you?"
"I've got to take my chances of squaring it with him. Most always he does about as I want him to. I've made a lot of money for John Ehodes, one time and another, and he knows it. Besides, I am going to tell you something. The last penny that Marken owed John Ehodes, to- gether with two per cent interest, was paid him more than a week ago. If, after all that, he kicked, he'd be more of a dog than I ever suspected him of being. "
The king, stupefied by the news that he was free from debt, gasped, but Kent disregarded him.
He got up and locked the door to make certain that he would not be disturbed, walked briskly across the room to a book case, and spoke with the proud delight of an ingenious boy.
"Come here," he said. "I want to show you something. Pretty clever, I call it. My own idea. Ivan and I did most of the work. Now look over here. On this side of the room, right under the mantel see this marble ornament? Well, it's nothing but a plain, common old American electric latch; the kind we have over home when we live on the top flat and want to open the ground floor door for a caller. Push on it!"
The king, still speechless, did so. There was a sharp click, and the book case swung away from the wall, exposing a modern safe behind it. The king's eyes were wide with curiosity.
"That's the way she works," Kent exclaimed, proudly. "Thought it out myself, for emergen- cies. I haven't kept any papers of importance in the vault of my office for more than three months. I'd give a hundred dollars to watch Provarsk when he opens it with the combination I gave him last night. It's quite empty."
He chuckled as he bent over and twirled the knob, pulled the heavy door open, brought out a drawer and took from it a piece of paper that the king recognised. He opened it and glanced at it to make certain of its identity, held it before the king to show what it was and then deliberately tore it to shreds, which he threw into the fireplace and lighted.
"There goes the concession," he said, gazing at the flames. "The manganese are yours, unmort- gaged, free from all debt and all obligations." He turned with a warm smile on his face, and silenced the king, who began remonstrating.
"I'll tend to my part of it," he said. "It's up to you to do yours. Let me handle the situation here. You must rush back to your rooms, sum- mon the heralds, get into your state glory so as to be more impressive than Solomon, and hurry down to the Market Place."
He consulted his watch.
"You've no time to lose. If I were you I'd not let them know but that you personally sum- moned them. You'd better go now, and, whatever you do, don't let Provarsk know you've been here."
He fairly shoved the king toward the door, hushing his protestations of gratitude with a gruff "We can talk about all that later. Not now! Not now ! Hurry ! "
He carefully closed the safe and swung the book case back into its normal position, after which, for some minutes, he stood scowling thoughtfully out over the garden, as if formulat- ing new plans, and then walked slowly across to the door and opened it.
"I'd like to speak to you," he said to the guard. "Come inside."
The man hesitated, looked up and down the cor- ridor and grinned. Kent was secretly pleased and knew that he was not mistaken in his surmise that one who had always been ready to betray for money would do so again to the highest bidder. The man entered and closed the door behind him, with a look of cupidity in his eyes.
"You are out for money ! " Kent said brusque- ly. "I'm goin'g to make it worth your while to go at once, get my man Ivan and bring him here. You can tell the sentry it's Provarsk's order. If you do that within the next fifteen minutes, you get five thousand francs in gold and no one the wiser. Can you do it?"
The man took another look into the corridor, seemed satisfied, and said: "How will you pay me?"
"You know that I keep my word, don't you?" Kent retorted. "I tell you I'll pay you the min- ute Ivan is in this room!"
The mercenary hesitated, scratched his head and took the plunge. He ran on tiptoe down the hall. Kent hastened to his secret safe, and took therefrom some rolls of coin and waited. His bribe was effective, for within the time Ivan ap- peared and the guard took the bribe money with a chuckle and left them.
"Ivan," Kent said in the soundless speech he employed when they were alone, "I rather think that, within a short time, Provarsk will be here and our interview may not be pleasant. Go into my dressing room there and leave the door ajar sufficiently to observe what takes place. If he gets ugly, I may need you. "
"I understand," said the giant, nodding hig head. "And I shall be there if needed. Is that all?"
"Yes," replied Kent, "that's all. And, Ivan, be wary of him if you do have to come out. I don 't believe that man likes you ! 'Pon my word I don't! And if he could, he might try to hurt you. "
Ivan's mouth opened into a wide grin, as he went to Kent's dressing room and pulled the door carefully shut, save for a tiny crack. Kent paced restlessly about the room, pausing once to admire, absently, as he had done a hundred times before, the intricate carvings of a huge wooden screen, that formed a snug little corner. Time was mov- ing and he wondered why Provarsk did not ap- pear, for he confidently expected him. Had that astute gentleman discovered the counter move that was being made against him, and taken steps for its circumvention? It did not seem possible.
With brisk elation he heard a tap on the door and when the sentry entered looked expectantly over his shoulder, confident that Provarsk was there.
"Her Royal Highness, the Princess Eloise," announced the sentry, and the American was troubled as he bade the man open the door for her, and himself moved toward it.
She entered hurriedly and closed the door be- hind her. Her anxiety and excitement were marked.
"Tell me," she said, hastily advancing, "what has taken place. Karl had no time. He told me to come here and ask you. Why is there a sen- try?"
"Princess Eloise," he said quietly, "I am un- der arrest by Provarsk's orders ; but your brother and I have taken steps that will render him very harmless."
She looked at him with pronounced consterna- tion that was augmented when he added, "Steps also that render my remaining longer in Marken unnecessary, so I shall soon be going."
"In the midst of such an emergency?"
"I do not believe it will be an emergency very- long," he said, gravely. "And I do not believe that after to-day I shall be needed. Therefore I expect to leave Marken within a few days."
"But you can't!" she insisted, desperately.
A slow change came over his face, the change that his intimates in big affairs would have called his "Poker face," a face that would be wooden regardless of whatever depression, elation, craft or plan passed through his mind. "Nevertheless," he replied, quietly, "I am go- ing!"
"Surely not!" she expostulated. "I don't be- lieve it. It's as if you were beaten were run- ning away ! "
4 'Perhaps it may look that way now," he said, watching to see the effect of his words.
The princess' distress increased. Her hands came together, and he saw that her slender fingers had interlocked as though by this grip to obtain strength for repression. He would have given all that was his to have caught them in his own strong palms and to have comforted, soothed, and reas- sured her, but he dared not. He had schooled himself to the knowledge that from her viewpoint he was but a capable money lender, possibly a good friend, while she was that product of nur- turing and breeding, a princess royal. His rebel- lion at this condition brought out a trifle of that controlled savagery that made him strong.
"Why should I stay here any longer," he asked, "when all I came to do is done ? I have paid John Ehodes every cent of his money. That was my mission, was it not? That and nothing more."
She lifted her head and regarded him with as- tonishment. His immobile face bespoke no in- ward hesitation. Nothing but calm purpose. He was inscrutable. She sustained a conflict of emotions, but all her respect and liking, so slowly up- built, were wounded by his words.
"I thought," she said hesitantly, "that you had remained for something more than that. I thought friendship, a liking for a great work, a happiness in doing something worth while, had been reasons. "
He smiled but did not answer. She interpreted his silence as an admission that she had been mis- taken in her estimate of him, and that he had been imbued with nothing but selfish motives. She spoke regretfully, now, and he saw that her re- serve was breaking; that, tried and distressed, she was giving way.
"I thought we meant something to you, my brother and I ! And I tried to be worthy of what I thought you were. I believed you to be the great- est man I had ever known ! Karl would have done anything for you. I would "
She paused, twisted her fingers still harder and then looked at him with eyes like those of a hurt child, candid, outspoken in humiliated confession. ' ' I would have given anything to have you be my friend, as you have been Karl's." She paused, bit her lip, then impetuously clenched her hands and with sheer recklessness added, "I would have given much more to have helped you al- ways. If you had failed and been beaten, hon- ourably fighting, I would have liked to go to you, and put my hand in yours, and walk with you in defeat ! I was sick of illusion of sham royalty of polite lies ! I wanted your esteem ! Yours I all of it ! And now, I despise myself for it ! "
She stopped, choked by her own humiliation, and looked at him ; but his eyes were on the floor, his hands hanging listlessly open, his heavy shoul- ders and stalwart frame inert, and passive, as if all she had confessed, and all her scorn, were not capable of moving him. For a long time she stood thus, quivering, while he stood dumbly before her. The chirping of birds in the sunlit gardens out- side, the slow measured footsteps of the sentry in the corridor without, and that ominous, distant hum of Marken itself came to them accentuated in volume by their own silence. The echoes of her voice, like the appealing sobs of disillusionment coming from a hurt heart, died away like the last faint sounds of a requiem. Dumbly, like one as- tounded by some overwhelming surprise, he lifted his head and met her eyes. All the old bravery was gone from them. Gone, too, all the old mock- ery, the old readiness of response, the quick ac- ceptation of overchanging chance. Something in their great seriousness, in their very depths, made her catch her breath. She saw that he was hum- bly, yet desperately, fighting to speak ; that words were being sought and that none satisfied.
There was a clamorous, insolent note added to that murmuring diapason of sound that swept monotonously through the room, the sound of some one clanking his way through the outer cor- ridor. It stormed his ears like the call of a trum- pet announcing battle. It whirled him back to his own sphere of action, where men were to be met, where a fight, the fight he knew as a veteran, was imminent. His hands shot forward and caught hers, and his big body became endowed with a suggestion of bent steel, alive, ready to spring. He was the master again.
"Listen!" he commanded her, his words crowd- ing one upon the other. * * Go quickly behind that screen and sit down ! Hurry ! Sit there and hear what is said. Say nothing! My honour in your eyes may depend upon it and that is more to me than everything else in the world."
He caught her by the shoulders in his strong hands, whirled her, bewildered, across the few steps intervening, thrust her into an easy chair behind the screen, and was out again toward the door through which Provarsk was entering and which he locked behind him. She heard Kent's voice, cool, casual, greeting his sole opponent.
"Well," it said, "I've been expecting you. Did you open that vault yet?"
Provarsk laughed; but not with mirth.
"Yes, I opened it. And found just what I rather expected. Nothing." "Disappointed?" queried the American, with cool insolence.
"Not much," came the ready reply with equal coolness. "The way you passed the combination over was well significant. "
"Suppose we sit down," Kent suggested. ""We've got quite a lot of things to discuss, haven't we?"
"That depends on you. Of course if you are quite amenable I seem to be in the position of strength. I'll listen to anything you've got to offer." " You '11 listen ? That 's good. If you only came to listen, why did you come at all ? Say, Provarsk ! You don't think I'm fool enough to believe you came here merely on a polite visit, do you? Just because you wanted to hear the sweet sound of my voice? You came because I've got things you want. Things you think I might trade. Things that if you don't get, might upset your little pile of bricks and tip you over into the gutter. Come, let's not try to play blind man's buff. What are you after? What card do you need to fill your flush?"
"Pretty fair talk for a man who is shut in his own room under arrest," commented Provarsk. "What is it the English call it Swank. Yes, that 's it. Bluff, I think you style it, you Yankees."
" Not at all, " Kent insisted, seriously. " A real bluff is where you haven't got the goods, but try to make the other fellow believe you have. Swank, on the contrary, is merely an exaggeration of what you possess. Neither word is applicable, because I've got what you have to have. I under arrest? Poof! That's nothing, because I've got what is known as the moral supremacy, the initiative. Also because you are afraid of me and that I might possibly kick your apple cart with a lot of freckled wares into the garbage pile."
"Good!" gaily responded the baron. "Quite good! Nothing like frank admission to get to a business basis, is there? You can make it a lot more certain for me. And in return I can at least make it certain that you shall have a chance to wander farther afield with a whole hide."
"And if I don't prove agreeable?" questioned Kent.
"Then," declared the conspirator, with a great air of regret, "I am afraid you won't wander any- where at all. About the cheapest thing in Marken is a lot in the cemetery."
"Um-m-mh," mused the American. "If you are so certain of your ground, I can't quite see why you bother with me. You wouldn't do it. No, indeed! You'd order the lot."
"Right again," cheerfully agreed the baron.
"Well, then let's get down to brass tacks. What are you after?" Provarsk got up and began to move abont the room, much to Kent's disturbance.
"Sit down," he said. "I don't like to talk busi- ness to a man who is running a race with himself." Provarsk sat down and came straight to the point.
"I can get your transfer of that mining conces- sion whether you give it or not," he said, mean- ingly.
"In the same way you got my signatures to letters I never wrote, eh?"
"Exactly," admitted Provarsk, with a grin. "But it might save some further trouble with your employer, John Rhodes, if I actually got the transfer from you."
"I believe you are right about that," Kent agreed. "But you haven't yet explained where I come in. I'm not fool enough to believe you are doing this for the good of the state, you know." "Of course I'm not!" Provarsk declared, con- temptuously. "I'm doing it for my own good and no one's else."
"How do you propose to handle the king!" de- manded Kent.
"He'll have to do what I want him to, for the simplest of reasons, that I shall have the people behind me. He'll get nothing! He can be king. That's enough for him."
" Yes ? " said Kent, invitingly. "Now about me, You have already written to Rhodes. Do I get nothing, too?"
"That's just what I'm coming to," observed the baron. "You've been a good gamester, but you've lost, all the way round. You and I agree on just one thing, which is that either of us keeps his word when he can do so. That's right, isn't it?"
"Yes, I think it is."
"Then if I gave you my word as a gentleman on anything, you'd accept it, wouldn't you?"
"I think I should."
"Very well, that simplifies matters. The king has been getting ten per of the net revenues from the mines. From now on he gets nothing, and you shall have five per cent hereafter, to be for- warded to you wherever you choose to hide from Rhodes, provided that you give me that conces- sion. Only, of course, you've got to stay away from Marken. That's understood in any event."
With a studied air of deliberation Kent looked up at the ceiling, until Provarsk began to move restlessly.
The latter consulted his watch and got hastily to his feet.
"I've no further time to waste in politeness," he declared, with sharp emphasis. "I shall give you just five minutes more in which to decide." "Why this haste? Got anything important to do?" asked Kent in bland surprise.
"I have," asserted the baron, crisply.
"Well, Provarsk, you can spare yourself the trouble," said Kent with the utmost sarcasm. "I know your full plans. I even surmised you might try to seize me and instructed Von Glutz, who, by the way, will be on hand with sufficient strength to act this very morning, that unless it became a question of saving my life he was not to interfere with you. With the exception of perhaps a half dozen men, the palace guard is still loyal and awaiting my orders. I could have summoned as- sistance last night with a single call!"
Provarsk looked incredulous. He concealed the fear that slowly gripped him, and snapped his fingers.
"Bluffing again," he said. "Come, my time is up."
" Going to read a proclamation to the people, or anything like that? If so you may as well save yourself the trouble. By this time the king is already reading his."
Provarsk 's face, at this statement, went white with rage.
"You lie!" he shouted.
"I don't," calmly disputed Kent, in his turn arising to his feet. "I've already returned him his concession and he is by this time presenting the manganese mines, gratis, to the citizens of Mark en. Another thing! You needn't worry about what John Rhodes might do to me. I hap- pen to be John Rhodes, myself! You are "
There was a shout, a curse, a woman's scream and a pistol shot sounding together in confusion. Provarsk, infuriated, had whipped a gun from his pocket so unexpectedly that Ivan had not time to reach him ; but the princess had, with desperation, flung the screen heavily against Provarsk 's arm, and the bullet, deflected from its mark, spattered itself in minute particles of flying lead over the tiled floor. Outside, the sentry battered clamour- ously on the stout door. In the debris of the screen two men now struggled furiously, Ivan and Pro- varsk, the latter striving with desperate intent to twist his pinioned hand once more in Kent's di- rection, and swearing that, no matter what hap- pened, he would at least kill him. His persistence angered the giant, who had seized his forearm, and now threw him to the floor. With a roar like that of a charging lion he seemed for the first time to exert his full strength. He was unswerving and pitiless. His huge right shoulder suddenly lifted until the muscles of his neck were swollen and rigid, there was the harsh snap of breaking bones, an agonised scream from Provarsk, and Kent leapt forward.
"Ivan! Ivan!" he shouted, forgetting that the latter could not hear. The princess backed away against the wall, with a stare of fascinated, ex- pectant horror; for Ivan, with all the hatred he had sustained for the chancellor unleashed, was intent on killing him this time, regardless of Kent's entreaties. He snatched the pistol from the floor and despite Kent's efforts planted the muzzle against Provarsk's temple. He tried to discharge it; but in his haste had unwittingly thrown the safety clutch. Provarsk, helpless be- neath him, glared upward with eyes that did not quail. The curious, reckless, fearless daring of the man did not desert him in the least now that he was at the end. Kent caught Ivan's arm in both his own, but the enraged giant threw him off, dexterously dropped the pistol, caught it by the muzzle, and lifted his arm high above his head intent on crushing Provarsk's skull with the butt of the weapon. Quick as light, Kent saw his op- portunity, and caught the upraised wrist from behind, threw all his weight against it, and slowly bent Ivan sidewise from over his victim. The giant, though taken at this disadvantage, yielded only inch by inch, overborne by the strength of Kent that, with any ordinary man, would have been overpowering. Kent's jaws were set until the muscles of his cheeks shone in knots and his eyes were aflame.
"Let me kill him! For God's sake, don't interfere!" Ivan shouted, and then, pleading for the privilege of destroying Provarsk, was toppled over, breathing hoarsely, and looking up into Kent's face. Slowly the red flame burned out of his eyes, as he recovered control of himself. The pistol fell from his hand, and the princess, with a spring as graceful as a leopard's seized it and retreated to a safe distance.
" Promise me that you will not hurt him, Ivan! I tell you not to ! Are you mad, man?"
"I promise," said Ivan, sullenly, but relaxing himself, and Kent arose. Ivan got slowly to his feet, with a stare of hatred and defeated intent at Provarsk, who was painfully trying to extricate himself from the pieces of splinted screen.
Kent put his hand firmly, but gently, beneath him and assisted him to his feet, and then to a chair. There was no need to ask his condition. The loosely swinging arm told its own story. The door gave way under a fresh onslaught and several guardsmen fell into the room. Behind them could be seen two others holding Provarsk 's mercenary between them. Kent smiled grimly and said, ' * Thank you, men ; but I do not require your help. Pull what's left of the door shut and at once go and arrest or kill Provarsk 's hired men. Leave one man on guard outside in case I want him." They saluted and obeyed with convincing alacrity.
"Proarsk," said Kent, "I'm very sorry! I didn't wish that done to you."
"That's all right, Rhodes, or Kent, if you pre- fer it. It's nothing to what I wanted to do to you," gamely retorted the baron.
"Or nothing compared to what Ivan wanted to do to you," remarked Kent.
"Why didn't you let him finish it? In your place I should have done so," Provarsk asserted, without rancour, and clutching his shattered arm.
"Because," declared Kent, with quiet dignity, "I have punished you enough. You are finished as it is. Somehow, I'm sorry! You're a game man, Baron, and I like them. I shall send for a surgeon."
"Oh, may as well put that off for a few min- utes," the chancellor said, wincing with a physical pain that barely exposed itself in his level voice. "May as well tell me the worst."
"There's not much more to tell," Kent said, gently. "Only that I've beaten you past any chance of your coming back. By this time you are not even the chancellor, I think. I fancy Von Glutz, the loyal, has come back to his own. And you are broke. Broken like an empty egg shell!"
Provarsk shut his teeth, tried to get his arm to a less painful position, attempted a brave smile, and said, "I think not. The Marken Mineral Com- pany, my dear Mr. Ehodes "
"Is worthless! I couldn't quite forgive your trying to bribe my secretary, Provarsk. That wasn't playing the game. I went after you on that. It's a rule of finance to get a man who tries to bite your leg under the table. I got you ! The only unprofitable, completely worthless enterprise in Marken, is the one in which you've put every dollar you could get. I saw to that. I kept it going at a total loss just for your benefit. You're not worth a copper centime. You'll have to bor- row money to buy your railway ticket out unless unless I relent. Maybe I shall. There are a lot of things I like about you. There are a lot of places where I can use brave men, if they are will- ing to be honest, and you are at least brave. "
"I don't think," said the baron, biting his lip to hide his mental and physical pain, " that I can accept anything from you; but I will say this just to show you that in my way I am fair if I can ever learn this game you play this thing of finance, and I can find any way to have another go at you, I'll do it! And and while I'm doing it, all the time, I '11 like and admire you, and He shut his teeth savagely in a determined effort to subdue the giddiness and weakness that was mastering him, and then, with a long sigh, fell sideways and would have fallen to the floor had not Kent leapt forward and caught him in his arms.
He picked him up as if he were of no weight, and strode across the room, followed by the prin- cess, and Ivan, whose eyes had roved from lip to lip seizing the spoken words.
"Princess Eloise," the American called anxious- ly over his shoulder, u please summon some one to help me. And also a surgeon. Send them to my private room. And and " he stammered des- perately "wait for me here!"
Her face flushed, as if, in this turmoil, she had interpreted some hidden significance in his words ; but she ran across the room, called the sentry from the corridor, and Kent heard her words.
"Send two men from the guard room at once to assist Mr. Kent. Then go quickly as fast as you can, and summon the court surgeon. Hurry! Mr. Kent asks you to. Go quickly!"
Ivan closed the door, dumbly, and the sound of her voice was cut off.
"Here, Ivan," Kent's lips moved as he turned his head toward his follower from the side of his own bed on which he had deposited the chancellor. "Help me to get his clothes off, while he is un- conscious. You should not have done this. I can't fire you, because after a fashion you and I are pals. But I'd give a thousand dollars to be big enough to take it out of your hide, you big, ill-tempered chump!"
And Ivan, knowing a lot that was not embodied in his employer's speech, and having absorbed that strange but true philosophy of Owen Wister's conveyed through the Virginian, merely grinned and began unlacing the baron's shoes.