The Thrilling Adventures of Dick Anthony of Arran/On Terms
DICK led the way to the general's tent and Jenison brought up the rear.
"Sorry to have to use your tent," said Dick, "but I've none of my own. You caught me in a hurry, traveling light."
He motioned the general to a seat at the table, and the general unhooked his sword to lay it on the camp bed.
"Are you holding me to ransom?" he asked suddenly.
Dick stared very hard at the Russian, and Jenison stared hard at Dick, but neither said a word.
"You have been a very lucky man. Your luck in sweeping the Caspian of Russian ships was even more remarkable than your skill and daring. But you are a man of perspicacity; you must see—you must realize—that you cannot go on for ever defeating our regiments in detail or winning such battles as last night's. Now, Mr. Anthony, at this moment is the opportunity to get from Russia the best terms possible!"
"My price is known," said Dick. "I have never made a secret of it."
"Then I have been ill-informed," said the Russian, with a twinge of disappointment. "Will you be good enough to tell me?"
"The freedom of Persia, neither more nor less for Persia—and positive proof for myself and my identity! Neither more nor less for me!"
"But—Mr. Anthony—be practical! This talk about Persia is visionary—the matter is an international one. I——"
"You asked me my price and I have named it," said Dick rising. I shall have to ask you for your parole."
The Russian did as he was asked and signed the few lines with a flourish. Dick pocketed the paper at the moment that a horse splashed toward the tent outside. Its rider dismounted. The salaams of a Persian orderly left no doubt as to the newcomer's identity.
"Come in, Usbeg Ali!" shouted Dick, and a moment later the Afghan swaggered in, with the rain running from his beard and turban, and his high boots muddied to the top.
"Have you breakfasted?" asked Dick.
"Long since! I made a Russian cook it for me," he boasted with a sideways look at the general. "They are scattered, bahadur! There is not a troop of them left together. Would God there were a way of knowing what move the Russians make, without disclosing ours!"
"There is," said Dick, looking at Jenison. "You'd better get your man," and Jenison, with a wry face at the empty coffee pot, went out into the rain in search of one of his Americans.
"Give the general another tent," said Dick. "I have his parole. One sentry with orders not to let him out of sight will be enough."
Usbeg Ali Khan beckoned to the Russian and the two went out together, the general leaving his sword behind.
As the morning light shone stronger through the downpour he could see Dick Anthony, standing, bareheaded as always, at the entrance to the Russian general's tent. Dick's arm was stretched out, and a dozen men were listening to him in the rain with rapt attention.
"What is he ordering now?" the Afghan wondered.
He saw the men depart their different ways, and then watched Dick walk to a wagon near at hand that was very closely guarded. There were ten men posted around it, with fixed bayonets. From the opposite direction Jenison was coming with one of his Americans. The wagon was a strange one, of a type that Usbeg Ali in all his soldier experience had never seen.
From the middle of it rose a jointed pole to a great height, and from that were suspended wires that seem to have no conceivable use nor connection with anything except the wagon. But Dick seemed to regard wagon and wires with interest, so Usbeg Ali hurried, curious as a child. He arrived face to face with Jenison.
"Here he is," said Jenison. "This man can make a wireless out of a corkscrew and an old clock. He can work any kind of telegraph blindfolded, upside down and drunk."
"Know any Russian?" Dick asked.
"Um-m-m! Look the machine over. See if it works, and let me know. Don't send a message of any kind. Listen for messages. Understand?"
The American nodded, and Dick watched him climb into the wagon.
The wireless apparatus worked, as Jenison had prophesied it would. Sober as a judge, since there was no whisky anywhere, the most ingenious telegraphist that even the United States had ever grown too hot to hold imagined himself drunk as he took down letter after letter, but completely failed to string them into words. Dick, sitting beside him in the wagon, checked off the letters and put pencil dots at intervals, silent except for deep, steady breathing.
"Make head or tail of it?" the expert asked.
"Yes," said Dick.
When the instrument quit talking for a while, Dick drew out the general's little book and assured himself that the system of dots meant something. Then he sat on the wagon tail with his legs in the rain, but his body and hands inside, and started to decode the inside secrets of the most secret bureaucracy on earth.
"Where are you?" was the first part of the message, repeated a dozen times and until apparently the operator at the other end grew tired of asking.
"Send out something definite," said Dick over his shoulder. "Send some word that'll let them know they're in touch without giving anything away."
"Easy!" said the expert; and he sent a signal that is part of the international code, and so well-known that armies use it in casual conversation. Instantly the tune was taken up from the other end again.
"This is Baku. Where are you? Why are the overland wires down? What is happening?"
"Can you make it seem," said Dick, "as if we can receive, but not send?"
"Sure," said the expert.
After about five minutes more of frantic questioning the tale from the other end began to shape itself into the form of coded orders, repeated over and over again for the sake of certainty.
"The Princess Olga Karageorgovich must be rounded up and held. Find out from her where the papers are. Don't trust her again on any conditions or for any reason. Send her back here under close guard, unless——"
A word followed that seemed to have no meaning, although Dick searched the code book thoroughly. He pressed an arm against a bulky package underneath his shirt, and seem to find pleasure in it.
Baku soon resumed in code:
"Conditions on Prussian and Austrian fronts are serious. You must work alone. No force will invade Persia from the east side of the Caspian. Above all things get those plans. Try to trap Anthony. If the princess has the plans already, get them from her. In any case get rid of Anthony, and get the plans."
Dick worked with the code book, pencil and a piece of paper until he had an answer coded to his satisfaction. It was a risky game to play, to send an answer, for he had no means of knowing what peculiarities of style the general might have, and to have arouse suspicion would have been to throw away nine-tenths of his advantage.
But he decided the risk was worth it. Not knowing what he sent, the expert at the key flashed back to Baku.
The answer to that was immediate—
"Then reinforce me with ten thousand men."
Evidently the captured general was a man whom people humored as a rule, for they tendered him an explanation at some length.
"Impossible! All troops available are being rushed westward. The sooner you get the plans and finish Anthony the better, because your ten thousand men would be very useful. Hurry."
That seemed to be all Baku had to say for the time being, for the expert reporting nothing further coming through.
"Stay there then and write down whatever does come without answering," commanded Dick. "Send for me if they begin any rigmarole."
Dick went back to rummage among the general's belongings. He found and studied the general's campaign map that showed where the roads were, and the wells, and what forage and provisions might be expected at places on the road. He compared that map with his stolen, secret one—the map that betrayed intended treachery and that Russia now had sent ten thousand men to find.
Then he lay down on the general's bed, but he did not sleep. He lay, hour after hour, on the Russian general's bed, with his muddy boots on the general's private blanket, and thought out the problem point by point.
"For the sake of England and France," he said to himself, I'll save Russia's face for her. But she shall pay the price to Persia and to me in full, and in advance! Who sups with Russia, Richard Anthony, sups with a long spoon or goes hungry, and we're hungry enough—too hungry. We'll use the spoon!"
He arose and opened the tent flap an inch or two.
"Call me in four hours' time exactly!" he ordered the man on guard.
Then he lay on the general's bed, and was asleep in less than thirty seconds.
Dressed as a Persian woman, on a horse that Dick had given her, carrying a steel box that Dick had let her take, the Princess Olga Karageorgovich spurred into Persia past a line of Russian fugitives who fled from Usbeg Ali's cavalry. She ignored Russians and Usbeg Ali's men alike, for the Russians were supposed to be her own, and Dick's leave to be gone was passport enough to protect her from recapture.
Why had Dick Anthony dared let her have that box? If it contained, as she thought it did, plans and the map that would prove the Russian government a traitor to its ally, Dick could have made a better bargain with it than to toss it to her as the price of riddance.
At a slow amble she rode back toward Dick's camp. She rode for several hours, until she was brought to a stand at last by one of Usbeg Ali's outposts.
She rode on unmolested. It was not until after a wordy argument with a dozen of his fellows and an officer that the man spurred after her and past her and carried word of her coming through the rain to Dick's camp. And even then the orderly outside his tent refused to wake Dick until his stipulated four hours' sleep was over.
So the princess sat in the rain and waited for him—a wet, lone woman, on a dispirited-looking horse—and Dick, awake at once when the orderly called him, strode out unexpectant and met her face to face.
"I have come to ask mercy!" she said instantly, speaking before he could say anything.
"What do you mean?" demanded Dick.
She held the box out. Then she tossed it to his feet and for a moment he supposed that she had found some way of opening it already and had discovered his trick.
"Nothing less then dynamite would open that!" she said.
"What use do you purpose to make of the contents?" he asked her.
"Sell them! Sell them to the British! They are worth more to Russia, but Russia would bargain with me and then send me to Siberia!"
"Where do you purpose to make your bargain with the British government?" Dick asked her.
"Where else but at Teheran? I might get through to Teheran, and there is nowhere else to turn."
"I will give you a pass and an escort to Teheran," said Dick, "provided when you get there you will give the box and its contents to the British minister. I shall add a letter to what is already in the box, and something else. In the letter I shall say that you will prove my identity!"
"I surrender!" she said quietly, and then she dismounted into a foot of slimy mud.
"Get some kind of a change of clothes for her!" he shouted then see that she has a tent, or some place in which to change!"
Dick laid the box, all muddied, on the table and produced its key. He opened it, and the princess gasped. Usbeg Ali grinned.
"Blank paper, and a few out-of-date muster rolls, you see! Nothing much to bargain with!"
"Bah! A bandit's trick! A trick for the sake of trickery! And to what purpose? To get rid of me? I would have gone in any case!"
Usbeg Ali laughed aloud, and Jenison looked uncomfortable.
"There shall be no trick this time," said Dick, emptying the box by turning it upside down. Perhaps you recognize this?"
The princess nodded and her fingers twitched as she recognized a letter that had been enclosed in the map that she purposed to offer to the British. It was a letter of four closely written pages, explaining much that was on the map, Dick put it in the box. Then he took pen and paper and wrote a short letter on one sheet that he showed to nobody. Signed but unsealed, he put it in the box with the Russian letter, and holding the box up to full view of the princess he locked it, putting the key back in his own pocket.
"Now," he said, "I'll send this key by a man whom I can trust to the British Minister at Teheran. The man shall leave within an hour. You—" he looked straight in the princess' eyes—"shall leave for Teheran at dawn tomorrow with an escort of ten men, and you shall carry the box.
"If you can satisfy the British minister that you are the Princess Olga Karageorgovich and that I am Richard Anthony of Arran, you will be able to make terms with him, I think. You may tell him he will find me at Baku! Let me have one of your Afghans, Usbeg Ali to carry the key and ten dependable men to ride with her at dawn. Thanks."
As the princess walked away, she nodded to Dick familiarly, ignored Jenison as a person of no importance and laughed at Usbeg Ali Khan.
A little later, Dick passed the tent that had been given the princess with a frown on his face that he could never quite refrain from at mere thought of her. Even now, when she called to him from between the tent flaps, he turned to listen to her and could find a smile of courtesy.
His smile grew sunnier for of late she had always called him by his first name.
"It is very cold and wet. I am only a woman, and I have been exposed to more rain than is good for me. Is there no brandy—perhaps even vodka—in the camp? May I have some, please?"
Across Dick's mind there flashed recollection of a wagon-load of vodka, part of the loot of the Russian camp, that he had ordered kept under rigid guard because he had use of his own for it. He went to the wagon, made one of the sentries pull out a small cask of the stuff, and, because there was no sense in leaving a broached cask to tempt the men, carried the whole thing to the princess' tent.
He went off at once and ordered a Russian officer's cot mattress taken to her, with half a dozen plundered Russian blankets. He had food sent to her. And because the close ring of sentries set by Usbeg Ali irked his sense of what was due a woman he ordered them away and left only one to watch her.
Then he went off about the thousand and one different things that call for the attention of a man who would lead eight thousand on a raid.
The camp became like an ant's nest for activity; and when the rain ceased at last and the clean, sweet air called out the fighting men from under cover to fill their lungs and stretch themselves, there was too much commotion and too much hilarity for minor things to be much noticed. Certainly nobody noticed a long slit in the back of the princess' tent, and a finger that rose and fell up and down in what might have been a premeditated sequence of short and long strokes.
Nobody noticed that the tent assigned to the Russian general, that was back to back to hers and a hundred yards away, had a slit in the back of it, too, or that another finger did very much the same thing in that slit.
Nor did it seem to be anybody's business that the sentry on duty by the princess' tent should go close to the fluttering flap and be given a cup of strong vodka.
And vodka is generous stuff when a man has not tasted spirits for a year or two. A second helping of raw spirits, passed to him by a slim hand through the opening of the tent, opened the man's ears and made mere words sound like the whispering of angels.
"Would he take a message? In the name of Allah the Compassionate, why not!"
Within five minutes the general was in possession of a scribbled note and within five minutes more the princess had her answer, scribbled across the lines of the same sheet of paper.
Then, would the sentry not be pleased to let a lady by? She would come back within ten minutes. Yes, she could see Dick Anthony now, examining the captured Russian cattle; surely she would be back before he had finished, it would take him thirty minutes more at least to complete his inspection at that rate and she would be back in less than fifteen. Meanwhile there was a third cup of good vodka, and if the sentry would step aside for just one second—so——
She was gone—a veiled Persian woman slipping by the shadows in a camp where a woman of any kind was sacred. She had vodka—lots of it—in the gourd they had provided for her drinking water hidden under her long veil.
Luck of the most amazing kind seemed to shadow the princess always in the inception of her plans and the beginning of the evolution. It was nothing less than luck that made Jenison relieve the guard on the wireless station with another man who was now stupid from being aroused from heavy sleep.
He had taken up his duty about five minutes before the princess came. And then from beside the wagon wheel a cup was held out to him by a Persian woman, who said in very pretty broken English——
"Wid Meester Anthonee's compleemens."
He reached for the cup, swallowed its contents, and allowed the veiled lady to fill it again. The second cup made him cough, and his head swam so that he did not ask a third; he was satisfied to lean on his rifle and wonder at the world at large.
Through the slit in the covered front of the wagon a slim hand followed by the shapeliest arm the wireless expert had ever seen, held out a cup of vodka. He held out his hand and touch the cup—took it—swallowed the contents—coughed—gasped—and passed it back for more.
"Pinch me when it's over!" he said in a level voice. "But not until it's over!"
Nobody saw the Persian woman climb up by a wheel and spring inside. Nobody heard the argument that followed.
"Uh-uh! Gimme summore, kid! Pass the bottle!"
"Give me a pencil and some paper. So, I will write a message—you will send it—then you shall have as much as you can drink."
From somewhere under her Persian dress the princess drew a little book that was identical with that taken by Dick from the general's belongings. Carefully, but with a speed that proved her long familiar with the code, she wrote out a message in a clear, bold hand.
"Send this," she said quietly.
"Gimme another drink, that's a good girl!"
"First, send this."
"Send what? What is it? Send it where?"
"Call P-P-L. Keep on calling P-P-L."
Automatically, almost, the man dispatched the signal number that she gave him, and from overhead the wires crackled that had been silent all afternoon.
Dick Anthony, passing up and down the horse lines, heard the crackling and turned his head. Then it occurred to him that the man in the wagon must be acknowledging signals. He went on examining the horses, being satisfied that the wireless expert would write down anything that came. But the crackling continued, at a growing pace, and Dick became uneasy.
Presently he left the horses, and went striding across the camp in a hurry. He had to pass the princess' tent to reach the wireless wagon. He saw the sentry leaning on his rifle half asleep; he went near enough to smell the fellow's breath and then he open the tent flap to find nobody inside. And still the wires up over the wagon crackled like burning thorns.
The nearest man was the sentry. Dick seized him by the scruff of the neck and shook him until he dropped his rifle.
"Go and get Jenison!" ordered Dick.
"Find him! Bring him!"
Then Dick saw Jenison, and timed himself to meet the American exactly abreast of the wireless wagon. The crackling had ceased, and a face that peered through an opening to see if all was clear drew back again as he approached.
"Hello, Jenison!" he called.
"Hello! What's new?"
"A change of plan, that's all. Sha'n't start for a few days—very likely three days, and perhaps four."
"But why? Man, why in thunder not?"
"Come to my tent and I'll tell you!" Dick took his arm and led him along.
While they squelched through fifty or sixty yards of mud Dick strode in silence, never once looking to the right or left.
"What's that noise?" demanded Jenison.
"News of my change of plan going to Baku! That's your wireless expert sending a message for the princess saying that we'll wait here three or four days because the men won't march!"
"Fact!" Dick assured him. "No, she isn't in her tent. I came from there. I gave her the vodka myself with which she bribed your man."
"On purpose to bribe him?"
"No. That part was unintentional. It was my oversight, so your man shan't be shot. Ah! Here is Usbeg Ali—Usbeg Ali, get a move on! We start in an hour, and sooner if you can!"
The Afghan saluted.
"Go and get your guns away, Jenison!"
Jenison, too, saluted, and the act seemed to give him pleasure. "Has the man gone to Teheran with the keys of that box?" asked Dick.
"Surely," said Usbeg Ali.
"Then let me have that ten-man escort now instead of tomorrow morning."
"In five minutes they shall be here, bahadur."
"Don't want 'em here! Send 'em to the wireless wagon. Let 'em take the drunken man who is in there, and the princess, too, if she is in there. If the princess isn't there, let 'em take her from her tent and escort both to Teheran together. Be sure that the princess takes her steel box when she goes!"
"Is that all, bahadur?"
"The main thing is to hurry. Send Andry MacDougal to me if you see him anywhere. That's all, Usbeg Ali."
So the Afghan saluted, clicked his heels together, and was gone.
No bugle or trumpet blew to herald Dick's start on a raid that was more daring than any in the greatest war in history. It was sheer, stark, laughing madness, and every man who sploshed through the mud behind Dick Anthony that afternoon in time to "The Campbells Are Comin'" knew it—knew that Russia's millions lay over the border beyond and that nothing less than genius could save them from utter destruction! Yet, the mile-long columns laughed, tossing new jokes from company to company. Most of all they joked about the Princess Olga Karageorgovich, who many of them had seen sent southward surrounded by ten men.
Dick, except when some ribaldry or other passed him wind-whipped from the gun-tails back to the squelching infantry, did not even spare a passing thought for any woman in the world.
But the princess was thinking of Dick when she was not storming at the Persian horsemen who escorted her at Dick's command. The horsemen were not at all in love with the notion of riding away from the scene of Dick's next operation, and she worked with a will and a forked tongue to make them less so.
So she was in no mood to be hustled down to Teheran. When Dick determined first to send her there the idea had suited her finely, for she had thought herself at the uttermost end of her resources. But communication with the Russian general and discovery of the wireless plant had changed all that. She had been able to notify the Russian government of the whereabouts of those most important, most incriminating plans.
The plans were worth more to Russia than to England, almost infinitely more. She stood to gain almost infinitely more by following Dick and getting them, to bargain with them afterward, than by telling the British representative at Teheran of maps that had been in Dick's hands, but were now recaptured by Russia.
She had notified Russia of Dick's raid, repeating faithfully his talk of not starting for three or four days, to learn directly afterward that Dick fooled her. Then it was time to act desperately.
When she was certain that her vodka-soaked escort was asleep, she went hurrying out of the hut in which they had camped to run swiftly for the stables where fifteen horses moved restlessly.
She did not wait to pick the best horse, but sprang on the first and sent him careering out of the village, riding bareback with a halter for a bridle. She laughed as she struck the horse with the steel box that was all she owned of anything at all. She laughed again as she worked the horse around until he was headed northward in the wake once more of Richard Anthony of Arran!
Thenceforward for a few days, though she fought with cruel weather, her progress was comparatively easy. Twice she changed horses, once stealing a remount from a village where Dick had left two hundred tired mounts in exchange for a hundred and twenty fresh ones.
Slipping between the extended ranks of the rearguard was a work of art, though not so difficult as might appear at first thought.
At last, in the rain of a desperate night, coughing as if her sides would shake apart, she slipped by Dick's farthest-placed picket and was brought to a stand by the picket next beyond.
He strode toward her, pounced on her, dragged her to her feet and marched her with a bayonet at her back to his corporal, who sent her, with another man to help, posthaste to Dick. And Dick was snatching part of the four hours of sleep that he allowed himself. He came from his tent, savage at the interruption, holding a lantern above his head and peering forward. She cast herself in the mud at his feet.
"Dick! Oh, Dick! Dick Anthony!"
Dick picked her up in both arms, for there was nothing else that a gentleman could do, and carried her into his tent, calling to the orderly to follow him. Then, while the orderly watched her and she drank the soup that had been made ready against Dick's waking, Dick went to a wagon and had room made for her on a mattress stowed between the stores.
After that he had her carried to the wagon, and a Persian woman was sent to wait on her. A dozen man were told off to march by the wagon three on either side, three behind and three in front, and then Dick mounted his own charger to see to the resumption of the march.
He was very close to the Russian border now, and his numbers had been swelled by the addition of Persians trained by Russian officers, who deserted to him as he marched northward.
Next morning Dick sent for the princess, and they carried her to him on a litter, for she seemed too weak to stand.
"What was the wireless message you persuaded that man to send?" he demanded.
She laughed at him until a fit of coughing seized her.
"Kiss me," she said, "and I'll tell you, Dick!"
Andry came, tremendous and solicitous, as he always did whenever there was a halt of any long duration. Silent as a rock he stood behind Dick.
"Ye mind ye gave me orrrders tae smash yon wireless wagon 'way back behind?"
"Before I broke the apppparrratus intae leetle bits, I found a wee bit paper. I hae it here."
He dropped the crumpled ball of paper into Dick's open palm, and Dick began to uncrumple it. He smoothed it out and held it toward the lantern, and Andry all but jumped in spite of his proud Scots phlegm when he saw the sudden change in Dick's face and sensed the turn affairs had taken.
"What is it, Mr. Dicky?"
But Dick was too busy to answer him. Spread on his knee was the coded message that the princess had bribed the American to send, and Dick's hand was busy searching in an inside pocket for the little book he had found among the general's effects.
The princess stared hard and tried to rise and snatch the message, but Andry saw her in time and his huge bulk intervened. The princess sank to her couch again.
"Tell me," said Dick, leaning forward suddenly and addressing the princess, "why did you say nothing of my having defeated your ten thousand men!"
The princess coughed for about two minutes, shook her head apparently in token that circumstances were too many for her, and decided in a whim of the moment to answer him.
"I agreed with the general not to."
"The general hoped that his men would rally and attack you from the rear. A defeated general is not persona grata in Russia. His best plan was to wait in the hope of a reverse to you that would set him free, and perhaps set him at the head of his own men again. He agreed to befriend me afterward, should circumstances favor him. I would really have told you had you paid the price I asked. And it was not a very high price. Tell them to carry me away."
Dick arose and stepped toward her litter.
"You shall have your price!" he said, and he knelt beside her as if she had been an angel and he was a suppliant for grace. Under the eyes of Andry and a dozen wondering Persians he bent over her and kissed her on the lips, and she threw her arms around his neck, sobbing and stuttering.
"Dick—Dick! Oh, Dick! There was never a day when I would not have died for you! Kiss me again, Dick, for I am dying!"
So he kissed her again, and then bent her arms back and released himself.
"Take her back to her wagon!" he ordered, and four men raised her litter.
"Andry!" he ordered suddenly. "Get word to Jenison and Usbeg Ali Khan to hurry on at once!"
He went into Russia like a whirlwind, doing no more damage than to burn the telegraph poles and a few bridges over which an active enemy might possibly have cut him off.
His genius had detected Russia's weakness in the one spot where she was weak at that instant.
He marched due westward, in no hurry, until dark, and the Russians got behind him to cut off his retreat. That night he made a ten-mile line of bonfires, all of railroad material, telegraph poles, and ties; and, leaving the bonfires well alight, he marched east again, and fell on the Russians before their scouts could bring them word that the fires were an empty ruse.
He caught them on the flank, and again from the side on which they were certain he would not come; and before the Russian guns could form to give battle—before one round was fired—Usbeg Ali Khan, with a thousand men, had swept down on them under cover of black darkness and had put them out of action.
"On to Baku, now!" commanded Dick; and at dawn they lay down to sleep in sight of Baku, while Dick watched through his glasses the signs of panic that the appearance of a hostile force so near the city was bound to start in a population that is mixed of all the nationalities of the Levant, Asia Minor and the Caucasus.
Meanwhile a little procession wound its way to where Dick stood bareheaded, like a statue of resolution staring at what must be. Men carried a litter on which the princess lay, the general walked beside it and Marie Mouquin walked behind.
They laid the litter near Dick's feet. Signing for a bundle of blankets to be brought, Dick sat down on them beside the litter and bent forward so that he might hear better what the princess said. But he changed his mind on a sudden impulse and passed his field glasses to the general.
"Take a look!" he said curtly. "Take a good look!"
The general did as he was told, with eyebrows expressing wonder that he should be expected to see anything worth looking at in the neighborhood of Baku, the abominable.
"Get the hang of it?" asked Dick.
The general stroked his beard as he handed back the glasses. He looked down the length of Dick's little army, estimating it, and then again at Baku. But he did not answer.
Dick stooped over the princess.
"I'm sending into Baku now," he said. "You'd better tell me what creature comforts you want most, and I'll do what I can to have them brought to you."
She coughed until the litter shook and the general turned his head away. Dick signed to Marie Mouquin and the maid came forward.
"Make out a list of what she most needs!"
So Marie Mouquin, who had been the princess' maid for so many years that she knew what to write down almost without giving thought to it, made out a little list and handed it to Dick. Dick gave it to the general. And the general dropped his jaws until the gold filling of his back teeth showed.
"Take it into Baku!" ordered Dick.
"I am your prisoner," the general said stiffly, "and you have my parole. But I refuse to lend myself to any scheme of yours."
"Here is your parole!" said Dick, handing him a scrap of writing.
"Bring him his sword!" commanded Dick, and someone ran for it.
"Get him a horse!"
Then they brought the general's horse.
"What are your demands?" the general asked.
"I will only make them through the senior British official in Baku, consul or whatever he is. He must come out here and talk with me, and unless you want immediate action from my artillery, the senior representative of the Russian government had better come with him with authority to act!"
"I cannot promise," said the general, with eyes still on the dust clouds.
"Here's your horse. You'd better go. My card will reach there before you do; it will be my business card to show that I mean business. Understand me! I give them until noon, and not a minute longer!"
Wondering perhaps what his reception was likely to be—for a defeated Russian general is more likely than not to be sentenced to death by a court-martial—the Russian rode away, trotting slowly until he had gone a quarter of a mile and then urging the horse into a gallop. Dick stooped beside the litter again.
"Do you think they'll come and talk with you?" the princess asked.
"I know they will!" Dick answered.
Dick swung into the saddle and cantered ahead of the litter, halting by Jenison.
"Change the elevation of one gun, please," said Dick. "I want one shot—just one—sent straight over yonder distillery. I promised to send my card. Be sure you hit nothing. Fire when you like!"
The general repeated what Dick Anthony had said to him, and gave the Baku authorities as well a fair account of Dick's resolution and the efficiency of his little army and its guns.
"The guns are all trained on the gasoline!" he assured them.
The British very-high-official was invited to attend, and the matter was explained to him. At mention of the name of Anthony his gray eyes confessed to something more than the mild interest that had been his utmost concession hitherto. There seemed to be almost laughter in his eyes, and he had to clear his throat before he could speak.
"White's looking for him, you know," he said. "Most extraordinary case. Word reached England from your foreign office to the effect that young Anthony was dead and buried at sea. His uncle, I understand, wasn't sorry to hear it. But now the uncle is dead, and young Anthony would be heir if he were alive. Most extraordinary part of it is that our Minister at Teheran has written London to say that a man claiming to be Dick Anthony of Arran is at large in Persia.
"White is of Mervin, White and Melville, who are lawyers for the Anthony estate, and he asked leave to travel under my wing, so to speak, on this trip so that he might trace Dick, if possible. I knew young Anthony fairly well myself. Would know him again out of a million. Never saw a man quite like him, or with quite his presence. Most astonishing young man."
"Will you go with me, if I go?"
"I am at your service. I suggest that White go with us."
So White was summoned, combing his mutton-chop side-whiskers with nervous fingers, yet giving the impression that a silk hat and a frock coat where his rightful garb, and not altogether unpossessed of dignity.
They rode in silence side-by-side until Dick showed a white flag, too, from his eminence, and then the Englishman fell a yard or two behind.
Dick rode out to meet them, to escort them in person to the spot where the princess lay on her roughly-made litter.
The very-high-official slapped his thigh, so that his horse was scared and sidestepped. Dick's eyes and his met, and Dick laughed aloud.
"Hello, Uncle Charles!"
"Hello!" said the very-high-official; then he turned to White. "Recognize him, White?" he asked.
"That is Mr. Richard Anthony of Arran!" answered White.
"Oh, hello, White!" said Dick.
"My regards, sir! Glad to see you, Mr. Anthony!"
"Now, follow me, please," said Dick, and he led the way at a canter to the summit of the rising ground. Then he sent at once for Jenison and Andry and Usbeg Ali Khan, and as each came he presented him. At Dick's order men brought a blanket and laid it on the ground not far from where the princess lay. Dick felt inside his shirt and tossed a package into the middle of it. At another word from him, Andry and Usbeg Ali Khan each strode to the blanket and took stand beside it with a drawn sword in his hand.
"D'you recognize that?" asked Dick.
"No," said the governor of Baku.
Dick looked hard at him, and the governor stared back.
"Ask her!" advised Dick, pointing to the princess, who was being raised on pillows by Marie Mouquin. She seemed too weak even to rise into a sitting posture without help.
Frowning, for the princess was in disgrace, the governor stooped down beside the litter, and between long fits of coughing the princess told him in Russian that the papers constituted proof—absolute, unqualified proof of Russia's intention to march half a million into Persia at a time when she was bound by treaty with Great Britain to do nothing of the kind.
"Do you know what the papers are now?" asked Dick.
The governor of Baku nodded his head.
"Do you wish me to tell this gentleman—" Dick pointed to his uncle—"exactly what the papers are?"
"No!" said the governor.
"Well," said Dick, "he shall see them unless we can come to terms."
"What are the terms?" asked the governor.
"These," said Dick. "I am here on behalf of Persia. These men who have followed me are Persian patriots, who are in arms for the cause of Persia's freedom. In the presence of my uncle here, and witnessed by his signature, you are to give these men a written guarantee that Persian independence shall be always respected in the future. You are to agree to withdraw all Russian troops from Persia, and for all time, and to guarantee the integrity of the present boundary in perpetuity."
"I have no authority!" said the governor.
"Then get it!" answered Dick.
Dick drew out a watch.
"At exactly 30 seconds after noon, by my time, I shall begin to bombard that gasoline! Shall we compare watches?"
"The governor looked at the very-high-official whom Dick had called uncle, but the Englishman was staring steadily at the papers on the blanket. He seemed to be in a daydream.
"Incidentally," said Dick, "I shall show my uncle those papers, unless——"
"Come!" said the governor of Baku. "We will ride back!"
"No!" said Dick. "I refuse to subject any person of my uncle's political importance to the danger of a bombardment. He stays here!"
"I claim the protection of the Russian government!" said Dick's uncle, with a face that owned positively no expression.
"I can do nothing without authority," said the governor.
"Use your wireless!" ordered Dick. "But understand me, I begin to bombard at thirty seconds after twelve unless——"
The governor of Bakua paced up and down a time or two irresolutely, glancing from Dick to his uncle, all down the lines of Dick's ready little army, and then at the city and its tanks of dangerous, precious fuel.
"It seems I must leave you here!" he said at last.
So the governor of Baku rode away, not as he had come, with dignity, but at a furious gallop.
"Well, young man," said Dick's uncle, when the governor had gone, "what's it all mean? You've got the governor of Baku cornered, but what about afterward?"
"I shall hurry home!" Dick assured him.
His uncle whistled.
"As long as you're my prisoner," said Dick, "I'll make use of you. Let me present you to the Princess Olga Karageorgovich."
His uncle bowed, and the dying woman smiled. Between violent fits of coughing she told, at Dick's request—since memory of Dick's kiss was on her lips yet—how she had tricked and trapped and driven Dick into Persia that he might be made an outlaw and provide excuse for a Russian invasion of the country. She omitted little accept the story of her frenzied love for Dick and of her attempts to murder him.
"Could you drop your official rank for a minute or two?" Dick asked, when the princess had finished.
His uncle nodded.
"Then, strictly sub rosa and unofficially, I'll let you look at those papers."
Andry picked them from the blanket and held them out. Dick's uncle glanced at them, studied the map for about a minute, whistled and threw them back on the blanket.
"I'd rather not see any more," he said grimly.
"There's only one thing, then, I've got to add," said Dick. "I'm going to leave myself in your hands. You draw up an agreement with the governor of Baku and I'll sign it over your signature. I insist on permission for Andry MacDougal, Usbeg Ali Khan and his seven personal followers, Mr. Jenison and his followers and the Princess Olga Karageorgovich, as well as Andry's sweetheart, Marie Mouquin, to go where they care to unmolested."
"How about yourself?"
"I? I shall lead these men back into Persia, of course."
"I shall go to England, and shall ask you for your influence toward getting me a regular commission."
"I promise it to you now, my boy."
The princess died in Baku, in Marie Mouquin's arms. Dick kissed her again before he left, and because she begged him to and she smiled as she died with the memory of his kisses on her lips.