The Thrilling Adventures of Dick Anthony of Arran/Foul of the Czar
FOUL OF THE CZAR
A WESTER was blowing savage seas against the coast of Palestine, and the steamers trading up and down beam on to it made heavy weather. Half of the time the Themistokles whirled her one propeller in the air.
There were only three passengers who did not suffer on the ship's account. One of them—the Princess Karageorgovich—was too interested; Andry MacDougal was too hard bitten; and the third—Dick Anthony—would scarcely have suffered just at that time on a red-hot grid.
As a fugitive from justice—a Scottish gentleman of decent birth and nice distinctions—life held no very luring bait for him, and death, with a spice of accident, looked, smelled and tasted good.
It was Andry who drew a cord unwittingly and loosed the dogs of war. Andry dug his bagpipes from a box beneath the bunk and struggled forward. A few stray notes blew back along the deck to where the Princess Olga nestled in a steamer chair. She writhed each time the bagpipe music reached her.
One can be Scots, and have pity on the weaker sex. With his tawny hair blown into jungle by the wet, salt wind, Dick Anthony leaned forward and asked a question. Wind snatched the words, but not its meaning.
"Do the pipes get on your nerves?" he asked.
"One gets used to them."
He was a human man, and he looked her for an ungrudged minute in the eye, giving her all the admiration she could claim—and that was a prodigious quantity; from such a man as Dick it was inestimable; it made her delirious. Then he turned on his heel and left her.
Even as he struggled forward, leaning into the wind with dirty scupper-slush aslide between his feet and his arms outspread to grasp things, he looked different from other men—more dignified and less self-conscious. She left her seat and clung to a rail to watch him, knowing well that he would have laughed at her had he known it.
"Give them here, Andry!" he ordered; and the giant gave up his pipes with an expression of obedient resentment.
"There's a lady aft who doesn't like pipe music. I'll put these in the bag with mine."
Dick packed away the bagpipes and avoided the princess all afternoon. He avoided her again at dinner time by going without food, depending on Andry, who did not believe in missing meals, to watch the points for him without further definite instructions.
Fate helped out the next move certainly. The princess ran into Dick at a moment when there was no room to step aside.
"Thank you very much for stopping the music," she said simply.
"Not at all," said Dick uncomfortably.
The ship gave a terrific lurch. She clung to a handrail with both hands, and he was forced in common manliness to offer her an arm. Nor could he escape the ordinary civility of helping her to a chair.
"Thank you, Mr. Anthony," she said quietly.
He had to stoop to listen, for the engines were arguing with a rising sea.
"Are we enemies?" she asked.
"Yes," he said simply, and she laughed straight up at him deliciously, delighted.
"Then, my enemy, this is the flag of truce!"
She produced a white handkerchief—priceless, lace-edged, ridiculously tiny. Dick pulled out his immense one, laughing, too, and his laugh, as usual, calmed his own temper as well as other people's.
Dick went in search of a camp-stool. He set it in a corner close to her, where he could watch her face.
"I am sorry for you, Mr. Anthony. You and your man between you killed nearly a dozen men in Alexandria. You are an outlaw. How will you escape?"
But Dick was there to listen, and he could do that better than most men.
He could see that her eyes were violet and languorous (when she chose to have them so).
"It was my fault," she said then. "I should have asked you first. But who would dream of a man like you, a confessed malcontent, poor, proud and at a loose end, refusing the offer of a kingdom! Admit you were unreasonable, Mr. Anthony!"
"I was free of the world when I first saw you," he answered. "And I never invited you to interfere."
She switched her angle of attack with a suddenness that would have bewildered many men.
"You blame me," she insisted, "but you gave me neither time nor chance to make different arrangements. Instead of refusing soberly and treating my disclosures to you as confidences—"
"They were uninvited."
"—you fought. You fled, and you left me no course but flight!"
"I knew nothing about your plans and I cared less," said Dick. "If you want to know what I think of you I'll remind you that I heard you order that riffraff gang of conspirators to murder me."
"Do you really suppose I would have let them?"
"I'm sure," he answered quietly.
It was part of her creed that men whose price was high could nevertheless be bought, or blackmailed, or coaxed, or trapped, or shamed. She wanted Dick.
"Then believe it, Mr. Anthony. Perhaps you are right. Imagine yourself in my position, Mr. Anthony. Try. I offered you a kingdom, you remember—a kingdom and Russia's backing. For some quixotic reason that I don't profess to understand, you refused the offer at less than a moment's notice, and offered instant fight. You seized me most ungallantly, ripped my veil, betrayed my identity to men from whom it was a secret, upset the plans of three years that had cost millions, balked Russia's plans in Persia, and made Egypt and all British territory too hot for me and for yourself—all in one mad minute. And you complain because I called on them to kill you in the heat of that mad minute."
"I did not hear myself complain," said Dick.
"You forget that you made your escape in my carriage, leaving me 'in the soup,' as your idiom is. It was only by the most extraordinary luck that I contrived to reach my hotel in time to catch this steamer with my maid and luggage. Now I, too, am an outlaw. Are you imagining yourself in my position, Mr. Anthony?"
"In my position—when you reached Russia—as I shall reach Russia—you would no longer be a fugitive from justice."
"No?" said Dick; and she heard him catch his breath.
"You are a fugitive." She sat bolt upright, and told off the points with a cautioning forefinger. "You dare not set foot on British territory, and the wireless waves are surely out against you everywhere. You are lost. You are damned, Mr. Anthony."
He did not answer her. She misunderstood his silence.
"By this time a flashlight photo of you standing with sword aloft in the midst of known criminals is in the hands of the police. You slew men in a brawl. You stand convicted by circumstantial evidence—you, an officer in the British army, as I have heard you claim. What do you propose to do?"
"That is my business, and not yours," said Dick.
"In my shoes, would you not ask forgiveness and try to make amends?" Not a word said Dick.
"I am offering you, Mr. Anthony, the protection of the Russian government."
"No thanks," said Dick, and he arose to offer her his arm.
She knew enough to know when she had failed. She took his arm, and let him lead her to the head of the companion.
"My offer stands," she smiled over her shoulder as she left him.
"So does my refusal," answered Dick, and he strode on the dark deck again.
Dick went below at midnight. Too indifferent to undress, he lay with his clothes on, watching cockroaches hunt on the cabin floor and listening to Andry advertising sleep five cabins down the starboard corridor.
Without warning, a shock came—a thousand-ton weight blow, with no answering ring at all, but a shudder and the sickening, yielding feel and sound of steel plates bending inward. Then the lights went out.
Andry woke and left his cabin like a whirlwind, but with his boots on, and felt his way back, cabin door by door, to where Dick thundered on the panels. The strain of the shock and list had jammed the door tight. In a moment Andry's feet were against the nearest bulkhead, and he grunted as his shoulders took the strain. The door creaked once and then went in, frame and all, as if a typhoon struck it. The door and Dick collapsed in the cabin corner.
"Ar-r-re ye dressed?" demanded Andry.
"Yes. Get off me! Man, you weigh a ton!"
"Is the bag packed? Aye; I have it an' the claymore, here; I have them baith!"
"Come on," called Dick. And all that Andry saw then was a black shadow, which he raced after in the blackness, trying to catch up.
They had struck a pilgrim ship, bound Meccaward.
Four of the little liner's boats were overside already, crowded full. Dick saw one boat go to pieces and another swamp in the thirty seconds while he watched.
Suddenly he turned and gripped Andry.
"The women!" he yelled. "They're below yet!"
But Andry pulled a wry face, and stayed to hide the bag and sword where he could find them.
At once someone pressed the button of an electric torch, and its all but exhausted rays shone golden on Dick's hair.
"I knew you would come for me," smiled the princess.
"We'll have to hurry up," said Dick.
The light went out. The blackness throbbed with human questioning and deep-breathed decision. Dick had to feel for the princess, and at the first touch she sank into his arms.
"Ah, Richard—oh, mon roi!" she murmured. "I am safe—I know I am safe!"
So Dick gathered her up and ran for it, stumbling over rats, and Andry followed him, with the princess' maid under one arm and a trunk in the other. He laid both on the deck beside Dick just as somebody on the bridge lit a bunch of oily waste. He rushed off at once, then for the sword and bag, and brought them back triumphantly.
Then the mate spied them, in the light of his weird torch. "There's a small boat aft!" he shouted. "Take it!"
Standing was difficult already, and the slope of the deck was growing greater. Dick rushed astern, and Andry followed. In a minute, being sailors both of them, they had the little boat swung clear and Andry hove the luggage in. Their one chance was to get away before the mob knew that they had a chance and charged to take it from them. Within a minute, the maid lay in the bottom of the dingey. And then the worst happened.
A knife, meant for Dick, went slivering through the night. Andry hove the princess off her feet and swung her in beside her maid, and as he dropped her he snatched an oar.
More than a dozen times, ten feet each time, they drove the mob backward, blanched and wilting. They could not hold their gain, and Dick was running blood, although Andry did not know it. Suddenly, just as they had charged, Dick yelled to Andry to jump in and lower the boat.
"Na, Na! I'll no leave ye!"
"Get in and lower away!" commanded Dick, charging again like a bear at bay, to cover the retreat.
Andry blubbered then, while he obeyed.
When he stopped at last to lean on his oars and listen, the princess bent forward, laying a hand on his enormous one.
"Leave us here and swim back to him!" she urged.
"Jezebel!" he hissed. "I hae ma orders!"
Her agile brain was searching for another plan when a splash came that put new, sudden heart into Andry. The two stout oars bent into semi-circles, as his great back muscles cracked and the dingey spun. The little boat leaped on the wave tops as the flying fish scoot from the dolphins. Under the overhanging stern he stopped and plunged his arms in; in an instant Dick's dripping head was hauled clear of the gunwale; in an instant more he lay on the bottom of the boat, bruised and bleeding, but alive.
At dawn the princess was bathing Dick's head with a handkerchief dipped overside, and a movement of his master's eyelids had decided Andry that the end was at least not yet.
He was glum—silent—ruminant for an hour, while a dirty steamer overtook them. He watched Dick's face until the Nizhni-Novgorod, bound for the Dardanelles and Black Sea ports—came beside them and lowered a Jacob's ladder down her grimy side.
Somebody called out in Russian from the bridge, and the princess answered. Disarrayed and tired, she stood up in the little boat and told them who she was.
They seemed to own no companion ladder. After a lot of talk with the princess, they took the cover off a hatch and rigged it in slings.
"Lay Mr. Anthony on that!" the princess ordered, as they lowered it overside from an outswing derrick.
"Leddies first!" said Andry; and his lips closed tight.
He was down on his knees by Dick before the sling was half way up the steamer's side.
"Ar-r-re ye awake, Mr. Dicky? Can ye hear?"
Dick smiled and opened both eyes.
"Then, 'tis what I feared! Listen—listen, laddie! Listen, sir! Y're forgettin'. She's no' frien' at a'—she's a verra weekid wumman, a' oor enemy! Wull ye no listen?"
Dick sat up and Andry sat down to chew the cud of wonderment. Both of them watched critically then as a boat was lowered from the Russian steamer's stern. It was a dingey, much like theirs, and two men could have managed it easily; but it held four. They came alongside in silence.
One of the Russians took Dick and helped him to the stern. Then the Russian boat was full; there was no room for Andry, and he laid hold of the Russian's gunwale, that they might tow him along.
He yelled with rage when a Russian struck his wrist with an oar end. He reached for an oar to strike back. It was then he discovered that the oars were gone.
But the big man could swim. Dick laughed as he watched him swim for the Jacob's ladder, with the sword between his teeth.
A mate and two seamen hauled at the ladder, but they hauled up Andry. The giant sprang between them before they could think of seizing things to hit him with, and it was only the sight of Dick being helped out of the dingey on to the steamer's poop that prevented him from making bloody use of the claymore.
"Well done, my man!" smiled the Princess Olga Karageorgovich, stepping toward him.
She had counted on a Dick who was unconscious and an Andry who could not swim—on a Dick who could be lied to about Andry and perhaps—a little later taught to love. But even as she and Andry faced each other, with an oath of deathless enmity on Andry's lips, Dick walked unsupported off the poop.
Hatless, he saluted her. Then he took one step backward, turned and walked away. Andry turned on a scornful heel without troubling to salute and followed up the deck.
As her violet eyes watched Dick, they lit strangely.
"Eh bien, Monsieur Anthony of Arran!" she nodded after him. Then she climbed to the bridge and talked more than a little with the captain.
England is not the only land that produces gentlemen adventurers. Just such a man was Usbeg Ali Khan, the Afghan. If his features were the least bit Semitic, and his skin light olive, he was none the less strikingly handsome on that account.
It was news of a Pan-Islam movement taking root in Egypt that brought him to Alexandria and Cairo.
He found himself one of the many thousand men, all sitting on the fence—all waiting for a leader.
On the whole he enjoyed Egypt. But he grew weary of its peace, and he was ready for a move on to Morocco, where they told him a rebellion was simmering beneath French rule. He had sold his horses and was inquiring about passage when the word went around that "She" had a leader ready. So he hurried by train to Alexandria.
Observant, as his countrymen all are, he admired Dick Anthony and Dick's giant attendant in the street. Some time ago he had decided in his own mind that the princess must be "She" who paid and issued orders; but he did not connect her and Dick Anthony and Andry and the past and future and himself until that night of nights when Dick and Andry burst into the crowded room like revolution loosed, and he and a hundred more conspirators knew that instant that they had the man if only he would lead and they dared follow.
When Dick swung the quivering blade above his head in proof of ownership, it had been Usbeg Ali Khan who shouted "Zindabad Anthony Shah!" He had led the answering shout, "Long live King Anthony!" Last to leave the room at "Her" bidding, he had stood nearest to the door. He had seen Dick rip "Her" veil down and disclose the Princess Olga Karageorgovich. At her instant cry of "Kill him!" he had blocked the door a moment, for it suited him to see how this wonder of a man might acquit himself, with half a chance. He had watched the fight spellbound, while Andry backed Dick with a broken chair, and Dick hewed—smashed—burst a road to the outer night and freedom.
Above all, though, he had heard the story of the sword, that a king named Alexander had presented it to an Anthony. There is only one Alexander to the Afghans, or ever will be—but one magnificent Iskander. The tale alone had been enough to fire his veins and his imagination; but the tale, and the sword, and the man, and the fight he made, considered all together—Allah!
Within five minutes, he had sent his seven men hurrying through byways, with orders to scout fast and bring word later. Within an hour, they had tracked Dick down, and had brought him the name of the steamer, even, on which Dick waited for the dawn. Within five minutes of receiving that information, Usbeg Ali Khan was the only one of all that hesitating swarm who knew exactly what to do.
He rushed in a hired cab to the different steamship offices. The Themistokles, he soon discovered, was bound for Black Sea ports with various calls between. He was able to find out, too, that Dick Anthony had booked for Trebizond on the southern Black Sea shore. He smelled adventure. He detected plan in his hero's wanderings.
There was another steamer bound for Trebizond, without any intervening stop, that would leave in two days' time and get there one day later than the Themistokles. He booked by it for himself and his seven men.
So, all unaware of the fate of the Themistokles, he disembarked one afternoon into a bumboat expecting to find Dick ashore there ahead of him. Then he learned that the little Themistokles was what Lloyds call a "total loss." Dick Anthony and the Princess Olga Karageorgovich were named as having been among the passengers, and missing.
One day a Russian steamer dropped anchor in the infamous roadstead. There came bagpipe music from her deck, and his sensations were mixed as he recognized the lilt and swing of British battle tunes.
Then a gunboat caught his eye. She was going off, to bring away on overdue consignment of tin-plate from the Nizhni-Novgorod. He had a quick bargain, and took a trip by her, gazing though his field glasses at the Russian steamer's decks and commenting on what he saw through them with strange-sounding Himalayan oaths that made the boatmen stare and grin.
The Princess Olga Karageorgovich appraised Dick at his real value. It was for herself that she wanted him. She knew that if she was ever to have him for her own it was for Russia she must use him—with Russia's aid that she must win him. For the present she must steer Dick Anthony to Russia—and that seemed easy, seeing he had booked for Trebizond. He was now on the way to Trebizond; she took care that a mate should tell him as much in broken English, and she gathered—observing closely over the bridge rail—that the information delighted him and put him off his guard.
Savagery is akin to love in certain natures. Dick was sitting on a coil of rope, with his head between his hands—sore from a dozen knife-cuts, dizzy with headache. Andry stood beside him, swearing to himself and watching preparations being made for the Princess Olga's comfort.
But not even Andry, who had formed his opinion of the princess, and like an honest Scotsman, held it, divined her full intention.
She made Dick no more overtures of friendship, nor did she pretend any friendship for him. The details of what she told the captain never transpired, but she had the field to herself, and a wonderful imagination in addition to a sound true basis for romance; she said enough to bring the Tatar out through the Russians porous hide.
She was on the bridge, half hidden in her corner, when Dick essayed to brace himself and climb the bridge companion.
"Can I have quarters for myself and my man, captain?" he asked, with his foot yet on the last step up but one.
"Get forrard! Get—off—my—bridge!"
The voice and the words were ripe with all the insolence servility knows how to use. Dick glanced at the princess. She had heard every word of it and she was smiling—looking straight in front of her.
Dick's hand went into his pocket. "You can name your own price," he said; and one would have thought that he was speaking to an equal.
"Son of a —! You hear me say, 'Get forrard?'" That seemed to exhaust his English. He had said the unspeakable. He had offered gratuitous, blackguardly insolence in the presence of a woman. But Dick looked over to the stern at the Russian ensign—back straight at the princess, and laughed. The princess knew that he knew it was war between them—knew instantly that he knew she wanted him in irons. She frowned. The captain read the frown and misunderstood it.
A rifle stood in the corner of the wheelhouse, loaded. In a second he had snatched it, and he held it very close to Dick, thrusting the stock out and his own chin at the same time. "See here! You see this?"
"Yes," said Dick, and he seized the rifle—twisted it with a sudden wrench that was irresistible—and spun it overboard. The captain was speechless.
"Bring the bag, Andry," Dick said quietly. "They've offered us the fo'castle. We'll take it."
Andry pulled the fo'castle door open, and a rancid mixed stench of onions, garlic and unclean men crept out to greet them. A dozen men sat up to glower as Dick strode in.
There was a trapdoor over the forepeak and a big ring in the floor to lift it by. Beyond the trapdoor, crosswise of the ship and above a locker, there were two bunks, both occupied.
"We'll take those two bunks," said Dick; and Andry said, "Aye, sir!"
Dick stood aside and looked around at his hosts, bunk by bunk. Andry laid the bag down, and passed him the canvas-covered sword. Dick held it just underneath the hilt, gathering in the slack of the canvas, so that it looked like what it was—a weapon. The Russians in the two bunks seemed to be asleep.
"Get oot, or I'll pull ye oot!" said Andry, suddenly enough and loudly enough to wake the dead; and the rapidity with which the man in the lower bunk produced a knife was proof enough that he had been awake and watching.
Then Andry pounced like a sparrow-hawk descending on a hedgerow. There was a swoop, two yells—and the knife went clattering against the bulwark at the farther end; after it, in quick succession—thud! thud! thud! went a Russian, then another one, a chest, blankets, belongings.
One of the men who had been thrown out of his bunk crawled to the door, slipped out, and ran aft with his complaint to the captain already stuttering from his lips.
"Lift that trapdoor, Andry!" Dick ordered.
Andry's back muscles bent into a bow of steel. Slowly the giant lifted the trapdoor clear and set it on its end, disclosing darkness and a deep-sea smell.
"Take those," said Dick; and Andry's huge fist shut on a box of matches.
"Open the bag. Take out the pipes—yes, yours and mine, both. Give me mine. Now swing yourself down there and hunt for anything inflammable. Search in the dark—don't strike a match until I tell you."
Obediently as a child, and trusting as a child—for he had seen the light in Dick's eyes, and he understood it—Andry swung his weight on to his hands and turned a circle. A moment he hung still by his eight fingers. Then he dropped, and his voice called, "It's no great drop, Mr. Dicky, sir."
"Is there a ladder there?" asked Dick.
"Aye. I've ma han' on it."
"Set it up, and then come get your pipes."
Soon Andry appeared head and shoulders through the opening, and gathered in his bagpipes as a mother takes a child.
"Hurry up and look for something that'll burn."
It was not in the least wonderful that the first thing Andry ran his nose into in the gloom of the forepeak was a barrel of petroleum. He announced his discovery with glee.
"Anything else?" called Dick.
"Waste, sir—half a bale o' it—opened up."
"Can you get the plug out of the barrel?"
"Aye, it's oot. It's runnin' oot."
"Let it run. Dip a pound or two of waste in it."
"Can you make a torch out of that?"
Andry hunted swiftly, his great arms outstretched in the darkness.
"Aye," he called presently. "I've found some wire."
"Once more Andry's head appeared above the level of the deck.
"Have you the matches safe?"
"Aye, in me pooch."
"Tune up, then!"
Together they filled the leather bags of their instruments with wind, while the Russians watched and wondered.
"‘Scots Wha Hae'," said Dick abruptly, and their chanters—both together—lifted to the tune.
The fo'castle of the grimy Nizhini-Novgorod seemed to reverberate and swell. Louder and louder skirled the pipes, fiercer, more defiant, till the whole ship was awake like a hive of bees and the decks clattered as men raced over them to see.
The door was pulled open suddenly, and the captain looked in over the head of six men; he was standing on a bucket at the rear of them. At a sign from Dick the music ceased with a suddenness that seemed to puncture eardrums.
"Come in, captain," smiled Dick.
The captain seemed to hesitate. It was perfectly evident to Dick that he was holding a revolver and did not want it seen.
"Light your torch, Andry!" he directed.
Andry struck a match. The torch flared up smokily. There was an instant rush for the door by all hands.
"Take a seat, captain," suggested Dick.
"What in hell is this?" he flustered, once more exhausting nearly all his command of English in one explosive sentence.
"A torch," smiled Dick. "Un flambeau, captain. We've discovered some petroleum below here. We've pulled the plug out, and everything below is wet with it—smell it, can't you, from where you are?"
"Damn! Say that again!"
Dick translated it into French for him.
"You see, captain, the ship's at our mercy. We purpose, now, to travel as first-class passengers or else to burn the ship!"
The captain swore. He blustered. He threatened law at the first port. But at each new argument the torch went lower into the forepeak. At last, Andry disappeared to pour new oil on his waste, and then the captain capitulated; he thought that his hour and his ship's had come.
He brought a table and wrote out a manuscript, in French, at Dick's dictation. A mate was sent for to witness the signature.
An engineer's cabin was to be made over to them at once. They were to have their meals brought to them there, and to have the undisturbed use of it. They were to have a meal at once, and after that three meals a day, the best that the ship could provide.
Finally, Dick was to be given a revolver for their protection and to enable him to enforce the contract afterward. The captain put up his greatest fight over this verbal clause; but he had to give way. He gave up the one he carried in the end—tossed it to Dick, unloaded, and threw the cartridges after it.
"I think we shall part company at Trebizond," said Dick.
They walked together down the deck, stared at stupidly by a crew who wondered where the leg irons were. And such was Dick's charm when he chose to exert it that in spite of warfare not five minutes gone the captain struggled already with an inclination to take his arm and support him to the cabin. In five minutes more Dick undid all that the princess had accomplished and left the captain wondering why in the name of Russia he had not treated this good fellow like an emperor from the first.
Without committing the belief to actual shape in her mind, the princess had come to believe that she and Fate were sister servants of the Russian empire; it was nothing to astonish her when Fate, arm-in-arm with Usbeg Ali Khan, produced an unexpected card and played it straight into her hand.
She was content to do nothing so long as Dick's aim was Trebizond, but once they were in the Black Sea, headed eastward, she began to work on the captain to omit his call on the southern shore.
"Steam straight for Batum!" she urged him.
But Dick's strong personality had already too far undermined her influence. There was a consignment of tin-plate in the hold for Trebizond, and the captain made that good enough excuse for firm insistence on his course. She decided on a master-stroke that would disarm Dick Anthony and leave him free apparently to go his own way, yet that would surely bring him to her goal.
"I have changed my mind," she told the captain. "I, too, will leave the ship at Trebizond."
Her mind made up, she made no secret of her plan, but told the maid to drag the trunk out where Dick Anthony could see it, and to pack it in full view.
Dick began to think that the end of interference was in sight. He knew utterly nothing about women, and did not want to know. When they came in sight of battlemented Trebizond and the promontory that sticks out to catch the Black Sea silt he was standing amidships. The princes, coming softly down the bridge companion, caught him unawares.
"Good-by, my enemy!" she smiled; and she held out a hand as Dick spun around to face her.
"Good-by!" There was humor—good-natured humor—in eye and voice and attitude. She sensed it instantly.
"I leave the ship here. I understand that you intend going ashore, but I don't expect we shall meet again—ever. I hope to get a lift on a gunboat to the Crimea. I'm sorry you won't let me be of service to you."
She held out her hand, ungloved. She smiled, too. Her violet velvet eyes looked a little moist, or so Dick thought. He held out his hand instantly.
"May we part friends?" she asked. "I would like to remember you in your best mood; won't you do something characteristic, just to oblige me before I go? Won't you and your man get out your strange instruments and play a Scottish tune for me?"
Dick, too, was something of a sentimentalist. It was a good excuse, too, for getting away from her. He and Andry went to their cabin, and two minutes later strode out together on the poop with that swing of the hips that a Scotsman keeps for bagpipe music. "Should Auld Acquaintance" was appropriate enough. It skirted across the water, very likely for the first time since the Highland regiments played it coming back from Crimea. So a signalman on a nearby Russian gunboat came out of a daydream—heard, looked, used his telescope—and understood.
Neither Dick nor Andry saw the Princess Olga's maid down on her knees by the bridge rail on the port side waving, waving, waving the same signal over and over again. But the gunboat lowered a motor launch and as the Nizhni-Novgorod dropped anchor half a mile out from the silted harbor, the launch came alongside, flying a Russian ensign. Almost before the ship had lost her way a Russian naval officer was standing on the unwashed deck, talking earnestly to the princess and making no attempt to conceal the fact that Dick was the object of his conversation.
"Damn!" swore Dick. If he had to be arrested he would have preferred his own countrymen.
But no arrest came yet. He watched them swing a derrick overside, saw the princess, her maid, the trunk and the officer all lowered into the boat, and saw the boat start off.
Andry leaned on the other side, about amidships. He was interested in the bumboat coming out in the wake of a pre-historic tug, very much interested in a man in uniform who might or might not be a Turkish officer—light-olive skinned, black-bearded, straight, who stood in the stern and peered through binoculars.
The bumboat came alongside, and the work began at once of lowering the tin-plate into it. The man in uniform came up the Jacob's ladder slowly, like a landsman.
He walked straight up to Andry and saluted him.
"I am from Alexandria," he said in English. "I have come to offer my salaams to Mr. Anthony. I am his friend. I have seen men in Trebizond who serve me. We all offer our salaams."
"Wait here, then!" commanded Andry, showing him a knotted, freckled fist. "Dinna move a foot till I come back."
He hove himself up on to the poop and clutched the rail beside Dick on the other side of the ship.
"Mr. Dicky, ye ken that black-faced mon who led the cheerin' back in Alexandria? Ye do? Aweel, he's doon yonder and wants to speak wi' ye."
Dick stepped across the poop and stared hard at the man who waited, then drew out of sight again.
"Is there no such thing as a lost scent—ever?" he asked. "So that's why they were laughing, eh? Pan-Islam movement, eh? Headquarters, I suppose, in Trebizond. Think they can drag me in here as easily as there! Tell the man I haven't a word to say to him, Andry!"
"If you're going ashore, the bumboat's going now, Mr. Anthony!" the captain called.
"I'm going on to Batum with you," answered Dick.
Ten minutes later, Dick and the princess stared at each other from the sterns of two different ships, and a third man swore as he stared in turn at each of them, through binoculars, from a bumboat loaded with tin-plate.
"Bismillah! Have I come thus for to fail?" he asked himself. "Or may others, too, take steamer to Batum—others and their servants! Allah! But he is a proud man, that Anthony!"
The wireless apparatus on the gunboat crackled, and an argument went out that was borne on sparks enough to keep the Batum operator on his mettle. Meanwhile, the gunboat got her anchor up and steamed in a wide semicircle, making nearly two knots to the Nizhni-Novgorod's one. The gunboat was leading by the time that night fell. So a procession steamed along—headed by the princess—followed by Dick Anthony, who thought himself free at last—and brought up at a quite considerable distance in the rear by a third party of eight men on a coasting steamer.
At Batum Dick gave the captain his revolver back with a laugh and a handshake and drove straight to a shop where English ready-made clothes were on sale on most terrific prices. There he fitted out himself and Andry so that they were at least presentable when they arrived at the hotel.
Later, after they had turned the hotel inside out and produced a bath for him, he left Andry behind and went off exploring in a cab, and although he was followed everywhere by a man in uniform in another cab, he was beginning to feel almost like the old Dick Anthony who did not care who watched him. When the other cab was stopped and the man in uniform stepped out of it; when he climbed into Dick's own cab and invited him, very politely, to drive to the bureau of police, the sensation was like being plunged out of summer into winter.
He made no objection, of course, but his feelings as the driver changed direction are not to be imagined.
To his amazement a very polite official presented him with a passport, ready made out to "Richard Anthony, Esquire, of Arran in Scotland—a gentleman of leisure, traveling for his own amusement, and accompanied by Andrew MacDougal, his servant."
"How did you get the details?" wondered Dick.
The official smiled. "Systems," he said in French sententiously, "were devised for the convenience of gentlemen as well as for the inconvenience of rogues!"
"Wireless!" he thought, and he made a new plan on the instant. He would solve the whole problem by returning home!
"Thanks," he said, "but I sha'n't need this. I shall be leaving Russia by the first boat I can get passage on."
"I'm afraid not, Mr. Anthony! There is a charge against you."
"Then you mean that I'm under arrest?"
"Since you elect to use that word."
Dick closed his lips and his chin assumed an angle that was far more eloquent than a thousand arguments. The official leaned forward conciliatingly.
"You overlook a few things, Mr. Anthony. Our attitude is very friendly—very considerate. We appreciate your position fully. We know what news of your arrest would mean to you should it reach England. You will understand that piracy is not a charge which can be lightly overlooked; however ridiculous, it must be investigated."
"Thanks," said Dick. "I'll wait at the hotel. I can't afford to travel about."
The official opened a drawer, drew out two cards, signed them and passed them to Dick.
"Make use of these, Mr. Anthony. Official passes on the main Transcaucasian railway. Take a look at the Caspian and come back. Batum is unhealthy."
Dick was prevailed on to accept the passes, for that did not imply the obligation to make use of them. He drove back to his hotel in dreary dudgeon, too gloomy to observe that an Afghan gentleman was waiting for him on the steps.
"My name is Usbeg Ali Khan," said a voice. "I would speak where we cannot be overheard."
Dick hesitated. The man looked like a gentleman and stood like one; there was no ruffianly bravado about him, nor any sign of cringe. But Dick remembered him and where he had met him last.
"I have a servant," said Dick. "One is all I can afford."
"I have seven servants, sahib. We are eight."
"I haven't anything to offer you," said Dick, moving forward, and the Afghan, who was considered a nobleman beyond the Himalayas, had either to eat his pride or leave. He went with a courtly salute which Dick returned punctiliously; even Andry saluted him, for the Afghan looked, spoke, strode and argued like a man.
"Pack the bag, Andry!" commanded Dick. "We've got to get away from these people or they'll give me no peace."
So he and Andry went to Baku, and something told Dick Anthony that this was the pushing-off place into worlds worth of strong man's while, where age-old chivalry was not yet dead and a man might strike for what seemed good to him. As he stood staring at the Caspian he forgave Fate, who had seemed so cruel to him. Suddenly, and without knowing why, he knew himself for a free man.
There, where the pipe lines come together and the trains of oil cars back down, screaming, to be filled—while a southeast hurricane played havoc with the anchored shipping and dyed the whole firmament dull red with the borrowed flame from a burning oil well—the devil came and tempted Dick Anthony.
He had been in Baku days already, wandering about and wondering at the ebb and tide of West and East. Everywhere Andry followed, patient as Job but savagely distrustful.
Dick stood, one evening, between two lines of oil-trains, watching to see how quickly they were filled; and a Persian in semi-Persian dress slipped underneath the couplings of two cars and spoke to him.
"Who are you?" demanded Dick.
"I am from Muhammad Ali Mirza."
Even Dick, who knew no politics, knew the name of the exiled Shah of Persia.
"What about him?"
"His highness sent for you."
The man waited, and Dick looked at him from head to foot.
"Come along, Andry," he said, and he made a sign to the man to lead the way.
Within ten minutes he and Andry stood in the dark courtyard of an old dismantled fortress. Two lanterns swung from the hands of men who looked like Cossacks, and threw a fitful light on about two dozen other men, some of them in Persian garb, who sheltered themselves from the howling wind under one of the ruined walls.
"I am Muhammed Ali Mirza," said a voice. "I am Shah of Persia."
Then Dick answered him in Persian, speaking fluently and grammatically.
"I know of you. What do you want with me?"
"The use of that sword of yours."
"My sword is my own!" said Dick, drawing it from the canvas cover. The men in front drew back half a step. But eight men on the right closed in and one of them touched the sword blade; he went down on one knee while he examined it. Then he looked up in Dick's eyes, and Dick recognized him—Usbeg Ali Khan."
"Are you in the service of the Princess Olga Karageorgovich?" demanded Dick in Persian.
"My sword is my own!" laughed the Afghan, standing straight. And Dick looked him in the eyes, by the light of a cheap oil lantern, in the gloom of a storm-swept Caspian night—and liked him.
Now a man stepped forward and led Dick aside.
He went on to assure him that the Princess Olga Karageorgovich was so filled with regret at her share of responsibility for his position that she had used her influence to bring about this meeting with the Shah, who was now, for the third time, about to make a desperate attempt on Persia with the connivance of Russia.
"Listen, Mr. Anthony! Lend your sword to this attempt, and within three weeks you can have every fanatic in Persia howling to follow you. The Shah will be a figurehead; you the power behind the throne; Russia your firm friend."
Dick laughed, but said nothing. The picture was not uninviting.
"Will you lend your sword to the Shah of Persia?"
"No," said Dick, and he stepped back from the wall. He was thinking hard. The man who had argued with him went on speaking. There was a crack in the wall beside where Dick had stood, and the voice that whispered through it was a woman's.
"Are you thinking of going to Persia?" asked Dick, walking straight up to Usbeg Ali Khan.
"To Afghanistan, sahib, through Persia. First across the Caspian, by boat."
"Is the boat ready?"
"All is ready but the weather. No boat can start in this storm."
Dick laughed again. "Will you start if I show you how?" he asked.
"Then you are for the ex-Shah?"
"No. I am against him."
"Then, I, too! Sahib, I will start now for anywhere you name and fight your enemies!"
"Come on, then!" said Dick. "Come on, Andry!"
"Arrest him before he gets away!" said a voice through the wall.
"Arrest him!" shouted the man who had argued vainly. Somebody blew a whistle, and there came the tramp of hurrying feet, in step.
"Our boat lies alongside the Katrinsky quay," said Usbeg Ali.
"Follow me, then," answered Dick.
"Comin' sir!" yelled Andry. And the ten—compact and swift—burst through the extended ranks of a Cossack regiment that was busy surrounding the ruined courtyard.
It took the Russians ten minutes to ascertain which direction the fugitives had taken, and twenty minutes more to get authority to act. An hour later a pursuing party stood on the Katrinsky quay staring through the murk at a sailing boat whose big, unwieldy sail was disappearing in the night.