THE KING'S JACKAL
RICHARD HARDING DAVIS
The King's Jackal
The private terrace of the Hotel Grand Bretagne, at Tangier, was shaded by a great awning of red and green and yellow, and strewn with colored mats, and plants in pots, and wicker chairs. It reached out from the Kings apartments into the Garden of Palms, and was hidden by them on two sides, and showed from the third the blue waters of the Mediterranean and the great shadow of Gibraltar in the distance.
The Sultan of Morocco had given orders from Fez that the King of Messina, in spite of his incognito, should be treated during his stay in Tangier with the consideration due to his rank, so one-half of the Hotel Grand Bretagne had been set aside for him and his suite, and two soldiers of the Bashaw's Guard sat outside of his door with drawn swords. They were answerable with their heads for the life and safety of the Sultan's guest, and as they could speak no language but their own, they made a visit to his Majesty more a matter of adventure than of etiquette.
Niccolas, the King's majordomo, stepped out upon the terrace and swept the Mediterranean with a field-glass for the third time since sunrise. He lowered it, and turned doubtfully toward the two soldiers.
"The boat from Gibraltar—has she arrived yet?" he asked.
The two ebony figures shook their heads stiffly, as though they resented this introduction of a foreign language, and continued to shake their heads as the servant addressed the same question to them in a succession of strange tongues.
"Well," said Colonel Erhaupt, briskly, as he followed Niccolas out upon the terrace, "has the boat arrived? And the launch from the yacht," he continued, "has it started for shore yet?"
The man pointed to where the yacht lay, a mile outside the harbor, and handed him the glass.
"It is but just now leaving the ship's side," he said. "But I cannot make out who comes in her. Ah, pardon," he added quickly, as he pointed to a stout elderly gentleman who walked rapidly toward them through the garden. "The Gibraltar boat must be in, sir. Here is Baron Barrat coming up the path."
Colonel Erhaupt gave an exclamation of satisfaction, and waved his hand to the newcomer in welcome.
"Go tell his Majesty," he said to the servant.
The man hesitated and bowed. "His Majesty still sleeps."
"Wake him," commanded Erhaupt. "Tell him I said to do so. Well, Baron," he cried, gayly, as he stepped forward, "welcome—or are you welcome?" he added, with an uneasy laugh.
"I should be. I have succeeded," the other replied gruffly, as he brushed past him. "Where is the King?"
"He will be here in a moment. I have sent to wake him. And you have been successful? Good. I congratulate you. How far successful?"
The Baron threw himself into one of the wicker chairs, and clapped his hands impatiently for a servant. "Twelve thousand pounds in all," he replied. "That's more than he expected. It was like pulling teeth at first. I want some coffee at once," he said to the attendant, "and a bath. That boat reeked with Moors and cattle, and there was no wagon-lit on the train from Madrid. I sat up all night, and played cards with that young Cellini. Have Madame Zara and Kalonay returned? I see the yacht in the harbor. Did she succeed?"
"We do not know; the boat only arrived at daybreak. They are probably on the launch that is coming in now."
As Barrat sipped his coffee and munched his rolls with the silent energy of a hungry man, the Colonel turned and strode up and down the terrace, pulling at his mustache and glancing sideways. When the Baron had lighted a cigarette and thrown himself back in his chair, Erhaupt halted and surveyed him in some anxiety.
"You have been gone over two weeks," he said. "I should like to see you accomplish as much in as short a time," growled the other. "You know Paris. You know how hard it is to get people to be serious there. I had the devil's own time at first. You got my cablegram?"
"Yes; it wasn't encouraging."
"Well, I wasn't hopeful myself. They wouldn't believe a word of it at first. They said Louis hadn't shown such great love for his country or his people since his exile that they could feel any confidence in him, and that his conduct in the last six years did not warrant their joining any undertaking in which he was concerned. You can't blame them. They've backed him so many times already, and they've been bitten, and they're shy, naturally. But I swore he was repentant, that he saw the error of his ways, that he wanted to sit once more before he died on the throne of his ancestors, and that he felt it was due to his son that he should make an effort to get him back his birthright. It was the son won them. 'Exhibit A' I call him. None of them would hear of it until I spoke of the Prince. So when I saw that, I told them he was a fine little chap, healthy and manly and brave, and devoted to his priest, and all that rot, and they began to listen. At first they wanted his Majesty to abdicate, and give the boy a clear road to the crown, but of course I hushed that up. I told them we were acting advisedly, that we had reason to know that the common people of Messina were sick of the Republic, and wanted their King; that Louis loved the common people like a father; that he would re-establish the Church in all her power, and that Father Paul was working day and night for us, and that the Vatican was behind us. Then I dealt out decorations and a few titles, which Louis has made smell so confoundedly rank to Heaven that nobody would take them. It was like a game. I played one noble gentleman against another, and gave this one a portrait of the King one day, and the other a miniature of 'Exhibit A' the next and they grew jealous, and met together, and talked it over, and finally unlocked their pockets. They contributed about L9,000 between them. Then the enthusiasm spread to the women, and they gave me their jewels, and a lot of youngsters volunteered for the expedition, and six of them came on with me in the train last night. I won two thousand francs from that boy Cellini on the way down. They're all staying at the Continental. I promised them an audience this morning."
"Good," commented the Colonel, "good—L9,000. I suppose you took out your commission in advance?"
"I took out nothing," returned the other, angrily. "I brought it all with me, and I have a letter from each of them stating just what he or she subscribed toward the expedition,—the Duke Dantiz, so much; the Duke D'Orvay, 50,000 francs; the Countess Mattini, a diamond necklace. It is all quite regular. I played fair." The Colonel had stopped in his walk, and had been peering eagerly down the leafy path through the garden. "Is that not Zara coming now?" he asked. "Look, your eyes are better than mine."
Barrat rose quickly, and the two men walked forward, and bowed with the easy courtesy of old comrades to a tall, fair girl who came hurriedly up the steps. The Countess Zara was a young woman, but one who had stood so long on guard against the world, that the strain had told, and her eyes were hard and untrustful, so that she looked much older than she really was. Her life was of two parts. There was little to be told of the first part; she was an English girl who had come from a manufacturing town to study art and live alone in Paris, where she had been too indolent to work, and too brilliant to remain long without companions eager for her society. Through them and the stories of her wit and her beauty, she had come to know the King of Messina, and with that meeting the second part of her life began; for she had found something so attractive, either in his title or in the cynical humor of the man himself, that for the last two years she had followed his fortunes, and Miss Muriel Winter, art student, had become the Countess Zara, and an uncrowned queen. She was beautiful, with great masses of yellow hair and wonderful brown eyes. Her manner when she spoke seemed to show that she despised the world and those in it almost as thoroughly as she despised herself.
On the morning of her return from Messina, she wore a blue serge yachting suit with a golf cloak hanging from her shoulders, and as she crossed the terrace she pulled nervously at her gloves and held out her hand covered with jewels to each of the two men.
"I bring good news," she said, with an excited laugh. "Where is Louis?"
"I will tell his Majesty that you have come. You are most welcome," the Baron answered.
But as he turned to the door it opened from the inside and the king came toward them, shivering and blinking his eyes in the bright sunlight. It showed the wrinkles and creases around his mouth and the blue veins under the mottled skin, and the tiny lines at the corners of his little bloodshot eyes that marked the pace at which he had lived as truthfully as the rings on a tree-trunk tell of its quiet growth.
He caught up his long dressing-gown across his chest as though it were a mantle, and with a quick glance to see that there were no other witnesses to his deshabille, bent and kissed the woman's hand, and taking it in his own stroked it gently.
"My dear Marie," he lisped, "it is like heaven to have you back with us again. We have felt your absence every hour. Pray be seated, and pardon my robe. I saw you through the blinds and could not wait. Tell us the glorious news. The Baron's good words I have already overheard; I listened to them with great entertainment while I was dressing. I hoped he would say something discourteous or foolish, but he was quite discreet until he told Erhaupt that he had kept back none of the money. Then I lost interest. Fiction is never so entertaining to me as the truth and real people. But tell us now of your mission and of all you did; and whether successful or not, be assured you are most welcome."
The Countess Zara smiled at him doubtfully and crossed her hands in her lap, glancing anxiously over her shoulder.
"I must be very brief, for Kalonay and Father Paul are close behind me," she said. "They only stopped for a moment at the custom-house. Keep watch, Baron, and tell me when you see them coming."
Barrat moved his chair so that it faced the garden-path, the King crossed his legs comfortably and wrapped his padded dressing-robe closer around his slight figure, and Erhaupt stood leaning on the back of his chair with his eyes fixed on the fine insolent beauty of the woman before them.
She nodded her head toward the soldiers who sat at the entrance to the terrace, as silent and immovable as blind beggars before a mosque. "Do they understand?" she asked.
"No," the King assured her. "They understand nothing, but that they are to keep people away from me—and they do it very well. I wish I could import them to Paris to help Niccolas fight off creditors. Continue, we are most impatient."
"We left here last Sunday night, as you know," she said. "We passed Algiers the next morning and arrived off the island at mid-day, anchoring outside in the harbor. We flew the Royal Yacht Squadron's pennant, and an owner's private signal that we invented on the way down. They sent me ashore in a boat, and Kalonay and Father Paul continued on along the southern shore, where they have been making speeches in all the coast-towns and exciting the people in favor of the revolution. I heard of them often while I was at the capital, but not from them. The President sent a company of carbineers to arrest them the very night they returned and smuggled me on board the yacht again. We put off as soon as I came over the side and sailed directly here.
"As soon as I landed on Tuesday I went to the Hotel de Messina, and sent my card to the President. He is that man Palaccio, the hotel-keeper's son, the man you sent out of the country for writing pamphlets against the monarchy, and who lived in Sicily during his exile. He gave me an audience at once, and I told my story. As he knew who I was, I explained that I had quarrelled with you, and that I was now prepared to sell him the secrets of an expedition which you were fitting out with the object of re-establishing yourself on the throne. He wouldn't believe that there was any such expedition, and said it was blackmail, and threatened to give me to the police if I did not leave the island in twenty-four hours—he was exceedingly rude. So I showed him receipts for ammunition and rifles and Maxim guns, and copies of the oath of allegiance to the expedition, and papers of the yacht, in which she was described as an armored cruiser, and he rapidly grew polite, even humble, and I made him apologize first, and then take me out to luncheon. That was the first day. The second day telegrams began to come in from the coast-towns, saying that the Prince Kalonay and Father Paul were preaching and exciting the people to rebellion, and travelling from town to town in a man-of-war. Then he was frightened. The Prince with his popularity in the south was alarming enough, but the Prince and Father Superior to help him seemed to mean the end of the Republic.
"I learned while I was down there that the people think the father put some sort of a ban on every one who had anything to do with driving the Dominican monks out of the island and with the destruction of the monasteries. I don't know whether he did or not, but they believe he did, which is the same thing, and that superstitious little beast, the President, certainly believed it; he attributed everything that had gone wrong on the island to that cause. Why, if a second cousin of the wife of a brother of one of the men who helped to fire a church falls off his horse and breaks his leg they say that he is under the curse of the Father Superior, and there are many who believe the Republic will never succeed until Paul returns and the Church is re-established. The Government seems to have kept itself well informed about your Majesty's movements, and it has never felt any anxiety that you would attempt to return, and it did not fear the Church party because it knew that without you the priests could do nothing. But when Paul, whom the common people look upon as a living saint and martyr, returned hand in hand with your man Friday, they were in a panic and felt sure the end had come. So the President called a hasty meeting of his Cabinet. And such a Cabinet! I wish you could have seen them, Louis, with me in the centre playing on them like an advocate before a jury. They were the most dreadful men I ever met, bourgeois and stupid and ugly to a degree. Two of them were commission-merchants, and one of them is old Dr. Gustavanni, who kept the chemist's shop in the Piazza Royale. They were quite silly with fear, and they begged me to tell them how they could avert the fall of the Republic and prevent your landing. And I said that it was entirely a question of money; that if we were paid sufficiently the expedition would not land and we would leave them in peace, but that——"
The King shifted his legs uneasily, and coughed behind his thin, pink fingers.
"That was rather indiscreet, was it not, Marie?" he murmured. "The idea was to make them think that I, at least, was sincere; was not that it? To make it appear that though there were traitors in his camp, the King was in most desperate earnest? If they believe that, you see, it will allow me to raise another expedition as soon as the money we get for this one is gone; but if you have let them know that I am the one who is selling out, you have killed the goose that lays the golden eggs. They will never believe us when we cry wolf again——"
"You must let me finish," Zara interrupted. "I did not involve you in the least. I said that there were traitors in the camp of whom I was the envoy, and that if they would pay us 300,000 francs we would promise to allow the expedition only to leave the yacht. Their troops could then make a show of attacking our landing-party and we would raise the cry of 'treachery' and retreat to the boats. By this we would accomplish two things,—we would satisfy those who, had contributed funds toward the expedition that we had at least made an honest effort, and your Majesty would be discouraged by such treachery from ever attempting another attack. The money was to be paid two weeks later in Paris, to me or to whoever brings this ring that I wear. The plan we finally agreed upon is this: The yacht is to anchor off Basnai next Thursday night. At high tide, which is just about daybreak, we are to lower our boats and land our men on that long beach to the south of the break-water. The troops of the Republic are to lie hidden in the rocks until our men have formed. Then they are to fire over their heads, and we are to retreat in great confusion, return to the yacht, and sail away. Two weeks later they are to pay the money into my hands, or," she added, with a smile, as she held up her fourth finger, "to whoever brings this ring. And I need not say that the ring will not leave my finger."
There was a moment's pause, as though the men were waiting to learn if she had more to tell, and then the King threw back his head and laughed softly. He saw Erhaupt's face above his shoulder, filled with the amazement and indignation of a man who as a duellist and as a soldier had shown a certain brute courage, and the King laughed again.
"What do you think of that, Colonel?" he cried, gayly. "They are a noble race, my late subjects."
"Bah!" exclaimed the German. "I didn't know we were dealing with a home for old women."
The Baron laughed comfortably. "It is like taking money from a blind beggar's hat," he said.
"Why, with two hundred men that I could pick up in London," Erhaupt declared, contemptuously, "I would guarantee to put you on the throne in a fortnight."
"Heaven forbid!" exclaimed his Majesty. "So they surrendered as quickly as that, did they?" he asked, nodding toward Madame Zara to continue.
The Countess glanced again over her shoulder and bit her lips in some chagrin. Her eyes showed her disappointment. "It may seem an easy victory to you," she said, consciously, "but I doubt, knowing all the circumstances, if any of your Majesty's gentlemen could have served you as well. It needed a woman and——"
"It needed a beautiful woman," interrupted the King, quickly, in a tone that he would have used to a spoiled child. "It needed a woman of tact, a woman of courage, a woman among women—the Countess Zara. Do not imagine, Marie, that we undervalue your part. It is their lack of courage that distresses Colonel Erhaupt."
"One of them, it is true, did wish to fight," the Countess continued, with a smile; "a Frenchman named Renauld, whom they have put in charge of the army. He scoffed at the whole expedition, but they told him that a foreigner could not understand as they did the danger of the popularity of the Prince Kolonay, who, by a speech or two among the shepherds and fishermen, could raise an army."
The King snapped his fingers impatiently.
"An army of brigands and smugglers!" he exclaimed. "That for his popularity!" But he instantly raised his hands as though in protest at his own warmth of speech and in apology for his outbreak.
"His zeal will ruin us in time. He is deucedly in the way," he continued, in his usual tone of easy cynicism. "We should have let him into our plans from the first, and then if he chose to take no part in them we would at least have had a free hand. As it is now, we have three different people to deceive: this Cabinet of shopkeepers, which seems easy enough; Father Paul and his fanatics of the Church party; and this apostle of the divine right of kings, Kalonay. And he and the good father are not fools——"
At these words Madame Zara glanced again toward the garden, and this time with such evident uneasiness in her face that Barrat eyed her with quick suspicion.
"What is it?" he asked, sharply. "There is something you have not told us."
The woman looked at the King, and he nodded his head as though in assent. "I had to tell them who else was in the plot besides myself," she said, speaking rapidly. "I had to give them the name of some man who they knew would be able to do what I have promised we could do—who could put a stop to the revolution. The name I gave was his—Kalonay's."
Barrat threw himself forward in his chair.
"Kalonay's?" he cried, incredulously.
"Kalonay's?" echoed Erhaupt. "What madness, Madame! Why name the only one who is sincere?"
"She will explain," said the King, in an uneasy voice; "let her explain. She has acted according to my orders and for the best, but I confess I——"
"Some one had to be sacrificed," returned the woman, boldly, "and why not he? Indeed, if we wish to save ourselves, there is every reason that it should be he. You know how mad he is for the King's return, how he himself wishes to get back to the island and to his old position there. Why, God only knows, but it is so. What pleasure he finds in a land of mists and fogs, in a ruined castle with poachers and smuggling fishermen for companions, I cannot comprehend. But the fact remains, he always speaks of it as home and he wishes to return. And now, suppose he learns the truth, as he may at any moment, and discovers that the whole expedition for which he is staking his soul and life is a trick, a farce; that we use it only as a bait to draw money from the old nobility, and to frighten the Republic into paying us to leave them in peace? How do we know what he might not do? He may tell the whole of Europe. He may turn on you and expose you, and then what have we left? It is your last chance. It is our last chance. We have tried everything else, and we cannot show ourselves in Europe, at least not without money in our hands. But by naming Kalonay I have managed it so that we have only to show the written agreement I have made with the Republic and he is silenced. In it they have promised to pay the Prince Kalonay, naming him in full, 300,000 francs if the expedition is withdrawn. That agreement is in my hands, and that is our answer to whatever he may think or say. Our word is as good as his, or as bad; we are all of the same party as far as Europe cares, and it becomes a falling out among thieves, and we are equal."
Baron Barrat leaned forward and marked each word with a movement of his hand.
"Do I understand you to say," he asked, "that you have a paper signed by the Republic agreeing to pay 300,000 francs to Kalonay? Then how are we to get it?" he demanded, incredulously. "From him?"
"It is made payable to him," continued the woman, "or to whoever brings this ring I wear to the banking-house of the Schlevingens two weeks after the expedition has left the island. I explained that clause to them by saying that Kalonay and I were working together against the King, and as he might be suspicious if we were both to leave him so soon after the failure of the expedition we would be satisfied if they gave the money to whichever one first presented the ring. Suppose I had said," she went on, turning to the King, "that it was either Barrat or the Colonel here who had turned traitor. They know the Baron of old, when he was Chamberlain and ran your roulette wheel at the palace. They know he is not the man to turn back an expedition. And the Colonel, if he will pardon me, has sold his services so often to one side or another that it would have been difficult to make them believe that this time he is sincere. But Kalonay, the man they fear most next to your Majesty—to have him turn traitor, why, that was a master stroke. Even those boors, stupid as they are, saw that. When they made out the agreement they put down all his titles, and laughed as they wrote them in. 'Prince Judas' they called him, and they were in ecstasies at the idea of the aristocrat suing for blood-money against his sovereign, of the man they feared showing himself to be only a common blackmailer. It delighted them to find a prince royal sunk lower than themselves, this man who has treated them like curs—like the curs they are," she broke out suddenly—"like the curs they are!"
She rose and laughed uneasily as though at her own vehemence.
"I am tired," she said, avoiding the King's eyes; "the trip has tired me. If you will excuse me, I will go to my rooms—through your hall-way, if I may."
"Most certainly," said the King. "I trust you will be rested by dinner-time. Au revoir, my fair ambassadrice."
The woman nodded and smiled back at him brightly, and Louis continued to look after her as she disappeared down the corridor. He rubbed the back of his fingers across his lips, and thoughtfully examined his finger-nails.
"I wonder," he said, after a pause, looking up at Barrat. The Baron raised his eyebrows with a glance of polite interrogation.
"I wonder if Kalonay dared to make love to her on the way down."
The Baron's face became as expressionless as a death-mask, and he shrugged his shoulders in protest.
"—Or did she make love to Kalonay?" the King insisted, laughing gently. "I wonder now. I do not care to know, but I wonder."
According to tradition the Kalonay family was an older one than that of the House of Artois, and its name had always been the one next in importance to that of the reigning house. The history of Messina showed that different members of the Kalonay family had fought and died for different kings of Artois, and had enjoyed their favor and shared their reverses with equal dignity, and that they had stood like a rampart when the kingdom was invaded by the levelling doctrines of Republicanism and equality. And though the Kalonays were men of stouter stuff than their cousins of Artois, they had never tried to usurp their place, but had set an example to the humblest shepherd of unfailing loyalty and good-will to the King and his lady. The Prince Kalonay, who had accompanied the Dominican monk to Messina, was the last of his race, and when Louis IV. had been driven off the island, he had followed his sovereign into exile as a matter of course, and with his customary good-humor. His estates, in consequence of this step, had been taken up by the Republic, and Kalonay had accepted the loss philosophically as the price one pays for loving a king. He found exile easy to bear in Paris, and especially so as he had never relinquished the idea that some day the King would return to his own again. So firmly did he believe in this, and so keenly was his heart set upon it, that Louis had never dared to let him know that for himself exile in Paris and the Riviera was vastly to be preferred to authority over a rocky island hung with fogs, and inhabited by dull merchants and fierce banditti.
The conduct of the King during their residence in Paris would have tried the loyalty of one less gay and careless than Kalonay, for he was a sorry monarch, and if the principle that "the King can do no wrong" had not been bred in the young Prince's mind, he would have deserted his sovereign in the early days of their exile. But as it was, he made excuses for him to others and to himself, and served the King's idle purposes so well that he gained for himself the name of the King's jackal, and there were some who regarded him as little better than the King's confidential blackguard, and man Friday, the weakest if the most charming of his court of adventurers.
At the first hint which the King gave of his desire to place himself again in power, Kalonay had ceased to be his Jackal and would have issued forth as a commander-in-chief, had the King permitted him; but it was not to Louis's purpose that the Prince should know the real object of the expedition, so he assigned its preparation to Erhaupt, and despatched Kalonay to the south of the island. At the same time Madame Zara had been sent to the north of the island, ostensibly to sound the sentiment of the old nobility, but in reality to make capital out of the presence there of Kalonay and Father Paul.
The King rose hurriedly when the slim figure of the Prince and the broad shoulders and tonsured head of the monk appeared at the farthest end of the garden-walk.
"They are coming!" he cried, with a guilty chuckle; "so I shall run away and finish dressing. I leave you to receive the first shock of Kalonay's enthusiasm alone. I confess he bores me. Remember, the story Madame Zara told them in the yacht is the one she told us this morning, that none of the old royalists at the capital would promise us any assistance. Be careful now, and play your parts prettily. We are all terribly in earnest."
Kalonay's enthusiasm had not spent itself entirely before the King returned. He had still a number of amusing stories to tell, and he reviewed the adventures of the monk and himself with such vivacity and humor that the King nodded his head in delight, and even the priest smiled indulgently at the recollection.
Kalonay had seated himself on one of the tables, with his feet on a chair and with a cigarette burning between his fingers. He was a handsome, dark young man of thirty, with the impulsive manner of a boy. Dissipation had left no trace on his face, and his eyes were as innocent of evil and as beautiful as a girl's, and as eloquent as his tongue. "May the Maria Santissima pity the girls they look upon," his old Spanish nurse used to say of them. But Kalonay had shown pity for every one save himself. His training at an English public school, and later as a soldier in the Ecole Polytechnique at Paris, had saved him from a too early fall, and men liked him instinctively, and the women much too well.
"It was good to be back there again," he cried, with a happy sigh. "It was good to see the clouds following each other across the old mountains and throwing black shadows on the campagna, and to hear the people's patois and to taste Messinian wine again and to know it was from your own hillside. All our old keepers came down to the coast to meet us, and told me about the stag-hunt the week before, and who was married, and who was in jail, and who had been hanged for shooting a customs officer, and they promised fine deer stalking if I get back before the snow leaves the ridges, for they say the deer have not been hunted and are running wild." He stopped and laughed. "I forgot," he said, "your Majesty does not care for the rude pleasures of my half of the island." Kalonay threw away his cigarette, clasping his hands before him with a sudden change of manner.
"But seriously," he cried, "as I have been telling them—I wish your Majesty could have heard the offers they made us, and could have seen the tears running down their faces when we assured them that you would return. I wished a thousand times that we had brought you with us. With you at our head we can sweep the island from one end to the other. We will gather strength and force as we go, as a landslide grows, and when we reach the capital we will strike it like a human avalanche.
"And I wish you could have heard him speak," Kalonay cried, his enthusiasm rising as he turned and pointed with his hand at the priest. "There is the leader! He made my blood turn hot with his speeches, and when he had finished I used to find myself standing on my tiptoes and shouting with the rest. Without him I could have done nothing. They knew me too well; but the laziest rascals in the village came to welcome him again, and the women and men wept before him and brought their children to be blessed, and fell on their knees and kissed his sandals. It was like the stories they tell you when you are a child. He made us sob with regret and he filled us with fresh resolves. Oh, it is very well for you to smile, you old cynics," he cried, smiling at his own fervor, "but I tell you, I have lived since I saw you last!"
The priest stood silent with his hands hidden inside his great sleeves, and his head rising erect and rigid from his cowl. The eyes of the men were turned upon him curiously, and he glanced from one to the other, as though mistrusting their sympathy.
"It was not me—it was the Church they came to welcome. The fools," he cried bitterly, "they thought they could destroy the faith of the people by banishing the servants of the Church. As soon end a mother's love for her children by putting an ocean between them. For six years those peasants have been true. I left them faithful, I returned to find them faithful. And now—" he concluded, looking steadily at the King as though to hold him to account, "and now they are to have their reward."
The King bowed his head gravely in assent. "They are to have their reward," he repeated. He rose and with a wave of his hand invited the priest to follow him, and they walked together to the other end of the terrace. When they were out of hearing of the others the King seated himself, and the priest halted beside his chair.
"I wish to speak with you, father," Louis said, "concerning this young American girl, Miss Carson, who has promised to help us—to help you—with her money. Has she said yet how much she means to give us," asked the King, "and when she means to let us have it? It is a delicate matter, and I do not wish to urge the lady, but we are really greatly in need of money. Baron Barrat, who arrived from Paris this morning, brings back no substantial aid, although the sympathy of the old nobility, he assures me, is with us. Sympathy, however, does not purchase Maxim guns, nor pay for rations, and Madame Zara's visit to the capital was, as you know, even less successful."
"Your Majesty has seen Miss Carson, then?" the priest asked.
"Yes, her mother and she have been staying at the Continental ever since they followed you here from Paris, and I have seen her once or twice during your absence. The young lady seems an earnest daughter of our faith, and she is deeply in sympathy with our effort to re-establish your order and the influence of the Church upon the island. I have explained to her that the only way in which the Church can regain her footing there is through my return to the throne, and Miss Carson has hinted that she is willing to make even a larger contribution than the one she first mentioned. If she means to do this, it would be well if she did it at once."
"Perhaps I have misunderstood her," said the priest, after a moment's consideration; "but I thought the sum she meant to contribute was to be given only after the monarchy has been formally established, and that she wished whatever she gave to be used exclusively in rebuilding the churches and the monastery. I do not grudge it to your Majesty's purpose, but so I understood her."
"Ah, that is quite possible," returned Louis, easily; "it may be that she did so intend at first, but since I have talked with her she has shown a willing disposition to aid us not only later, but now. My success means your success," he continued, smiling pleasantly as he rose to his feet, "so I trust you will urge her to be prompt. She seems to have unlimited resources in her own right. Do you happen to know from whence her money comes?"
"Her mother told me," said the priest, "that Mr. Carson before his death owned mines and railroads. They live in California, near the Mission of Saint Francis. I have written concerning them to the Father Superior there, and he tells me that Mr. Carson died a very rich man, and that he was a generous servant of the Church. His daughter has but just inherited her father's fortune, and her one idea of using it is to give it to the Church, as he would have done."
The priest paused and seemed to consider what the King had just told him. "I will speak with her," he said, "and ask her aid as fully as she can give it. May I inquire how far your Majesty has taken her into our plans?"
"Miss Carson is fully informed," the King replied briefly. "And if you wish to speak with her you can see her now; she and her mother are coming to breakfast with me to hear the account of your visit to the island. You can speak with her then—and, father," the King added, lowering his eyes and fingering the loose sleeve of the priest's robe, "it would be well, I think, to have this presentation of the young nobles immediately after the luncheon, while Miss Carson is still present. We might even make a little ceremony of it, and so show her that she is fully in our confidence—that she is one of our most valued supporters. It might perhaps quicken her interest in the cause."
"I see no reason why that should not be," said the priest, thoughtfully, turning his eyes to the sea below them. "Madame Zara," he added, without moving his eyes, "will not be present."
The King straightened himself slightly, and for a brief moment of time looked at the priest in silence, but the monk continued to gaze steadily at the blue waters.
"Madame Zara will not be present," the King repeated, coldly.
"There are a few fishermen and mountaineers, your Majesty," the priest continued, turning an unconscious countenance to the King, "who came back with us from the island. They come as a deputation to inform your Majesty of the welcome that waits you, and I have promised them an audience. If you will pardon me I would suggest that you receive these honest people at the same time with the others, and that his Highness the Crown Prince be also present, and that he receive them with you. Their anxiety to see him is only second to their desire to speak to your Majesty. You will find some of your most loyal subjects among these men. Their forefathers have been faithful to your house and to the Church for many generations."
"Excellent," said the King; "I shall receive them immediately after the deputation from Paris. Consult with Baron Barrat and Kalonay, please, about the details. I wish either Kalonay or yourself to make the presentation. I see Miss Carson and her mother coming. After luncheon, then, at, say, three o'clock—will that be satisfactory?"
"As your Majesty pleases," the priest answered, and with a bow he strode across the terrace to where Kalonay stood watching them.
Mrs. Carson and her daughter came from the hotel to the terrace through the hallway which divided the King's apartments. Baron Barrat preceded them and they followed in single file, Miss Carson walking first. It was a position her mother always forced upon her, and after people grew to know them they accepted it as illustrating Mrs. Carson's confidence in her daughter's ability to care for herself, as well as her own wish to remain in the background.
Patricia Carson, as she was named after her patron saint, or "Patty" Carson, as she was called more frequently, was an exceedingly pretty girl. She was tall and fair, with a smile that showed such confidence in everyone she met that few could find the courage to undeceive her by being themselves, and it was easier, in the face of such an appeal as her eyes made to the best in every one, for each to act a part while he was with her. She was young, impressionable, and absolutely inexperienced. As a little girl she had lived on a great ranch, where she could gallop from sunrise to sunset over her own prairie land, and later her life had been spent in a convent outside of Paris. She had but two great emotions, her love for her father and for the Church which had nursed her. Her father's death had sanctified him and given him a place in her heart that her mother could not hold, and when she found herself at twenty-one the mistress of a great fortune, her one idea as to the disposal of it was to do with it what would best please him and the Church which had been the ruling power in the life of both of them. She was quite unconscious of her beauty, and her mode of speaking was simple and eager.
She halted as she came near the King, and resting her two hands on the top of her lace parasol, nodded pleasantly to him and to the others. She neither courtesied nor offered him her hand, but seemed to prefer this middle course, leaving them to decide whether she acted as she did from ignorance or from choice.
As the King stepped forward to greet her mother, Miss Carson passed him and moved on to where the Father Superior stood apart from the others, talking earnestly with the Prince. What he was saying was of an unwelcome nature, for Kalonay's face wore an expression of boredom and polite protest which changed instantly to one of delight when he saw Miss Carson. The girl hesitated and made a deep obeisance to the priest.
"I am afraid I interrupt you," she said.
"Not at all," Kalonay assured her, laughing. "It is a most welcome interruption. The good father has been finding fault with me, as usual, and I am quite willing to change the subject."
The priest smiled kindly on the girl, and while he exchanged some words of welcome with her, Kalonay brought up one of the huge wicker chairs, and she seated herself with her back to the others, facing the two men, who stood leaning against the broad balustrade. They had been fellow-conspirators sufficiently long for them to have grown to know each other well, and the priest, so far from regarding her as an intruder, hailed her at once as a probable ally, and endeavored to begin again where he had ceased speaking.
"Do you not agree with me, Miss Carson?" he asked. "I am telling the Prince that zeal is not enough, and that high ideals, unless they are accompanied by good conduct, are futile. I want him to change, to be more sober, more strict——"
"Oh, you must not ask me," Miss Carson said, hurriedly, smiling and shaking her head. "We are working for only one thing, are we not? Beyond that you know nothing of me, and I know nothing of you. I came to hear of your visit," she continued; "am I to be told anything?" she asked, eagerly, looking from one to the other. "It has been such an anxious two weeks. We imagined all manner of things had happened to you."
Kalonay laughed happily. "The Father was probably never safer in his life," he said. "They took us to their hearts like brothers. They might have suffocated us with kindness, but we were in no other danger."
"Then you are encouraged, Father?" she asked, turning to the priest. "You found them loyal? Your visit was all you hoped, you can depend upon them?"
"We can count upon them absolutely," the monk assured her. "We shall start on our return voyage at once, in a day, as soon as his Majesty gives the word."
"There are so many things I want to know," the girl said; "but I have no right to ask," she added, looking up at him doubtfully.
"You have every right," the monk answered. "You have certainly earned it. Without the help you gave us we could not have moved. You have been more than generous——"
Miss Carson interrupted him with an impatient lifting of her head. "That sort of generosity is nothing," she said. "With you men it is different. You are all risking something. You are actually helping, while I must sit still and wait. I hope, Father," she said, smiling, "it is not wrong for me to wish I were a man."
"Wrong!" exclaimed Kalonay, in a tone of mock dismay; "of course it's wrong. It's wicked."
The monk turned and looked coldly over his shoulder at Kalonay, and the Prince laughed.
"I beg your pardon," he said, "but we are told to be contented with our lot," he argued, impenitently. "'He only is a slave who complains,' and that is true even if a heretic did say it."
The monk shook his head and turned again to Miss Carson with a tolerant smile.
"He is very young," he said, as though Kalonay did not hear him, "and wild and foolish—and yet," he added, doubtfully, "I find I love the boy." He regarded the young man with a kind but impersonal scrutiny, as though he were a picture or a statue. "Sometimes I imagine he is all I might have been," he said, "had not God given me the strength to overcome myself. He has never denied himself in anything; he is as wilful and capricious as a girl. He makes a noble friend, Miss Carson, and a generous enemy; but he is spoiled irretrievably by good fortune and good living and good health." The priest looked at the young man with a certain sad severity. "'Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel,'" he said.
The girl, in great embarrassment, turned her head away, glancing from the ocean to the sky; but Kalonay seated himself coolly on the broad balustrade of the terrace with his hands on his hips, and his heels resting on the marble tiling, and clicked the soles of his boots together.
"Oh, I have had my bad days, too, Father," he said. He turned his head on one side, and pressed his lips together, looking down.
"Unstable as water—that is quite possible," he said, with an air of consideration; "but spoiled by good fortune—oh, no, that is not fair. Do you call it good fortune, sir," he laughed, "to be an exile at twenty-eight? Is it good fortune to be too poor to pay your debts, and too lazy to work; to be the last of a great name, and to have no chance to add to the glory of it, and no means to keep its dignity fresh and secure? Do you fancy I like to see myself drifting farther and farther away from the old standards and the old traditions; to have English brewers and German Jew bankers taking the place I should have, buying titles with their earnings and snubbing me because I can only hunt when someone gives me a mount, and because I choose to take a purse instead of a cup when we shoot at Monte Carlo?"
"What child's talk is this?" interrupted the priest, angrily. "A thousand horses cannot make a man noble, nor was poverty ever ignoble. You talk like a weak boy. Every word you say is your own condemnation. Why should you complain? Your bed is of your own making. The other prodigal was forced to herd with the swine—you have chosen to herd with them."
The girl straightened herself and half rose from her chair.
"You are boring Miss Carson with my delinquencies," said the Prince, sternly. His face was flushed, and he did not look either at the girl or at the priest.
"But the prodigal's father?" said Miss Carson, smiling at the older man. "Did he stand over him and upbraid him? You remember, he went to meet him when he was yet a great way off. That was it, was it not, Father?"
"Of course he did," cried Kalonay, laughing like a boy, and slipping lightly to the terrace. "He met him half way and gave him the best he had." He stepped to Miss Carson's side and the two young people moved away smiling, and the priest, seeing that they were about to escape him, cried eagerly, "But that prodigal had repented. This one——"
"Let's run," cried the Prince. "He will get the best of us if we stay. He always gets the best of me. He has been abusing me that way for two weeks now, and he is always sorry afterward. Let us leave him alone to his sorrow and remorse."
Kalonay walked across the terrace with Miss Carson, bending above her with what would have seemed to an outsider almost a proprietary right. She did not appear to notice it, but looked at him frankly and listened to what he had to say with interest. He was speaking rapidly, and as he spoke he glanced shyly at her as though seeking her approbation, and not boldly, as he was accustomed to do when he talked with either men or women. To look at her with admiration was such a cheap form of appreciation, and one so distasteful to her, that had he known it, Kalonay's averted eyes were more of a compliment than any words he could have spoken. His companions who had seen him with other women knew that his manner to her was not his usual manner, and that he gave her something he did not give to the others; that he was more discreet and less ready, and less at ease.
The Prince Kalonay had first met Miss Carson and her mother by chance in Paris, at the rooms of Father Paul, where they had each gone on the same errand, and since that meeting his whole manner toward the two worlds in which he lived had altered so strangely that mere acquaintances noticed the change.
Before he had met her, the little the priest had said concerning her and her zeal for their common desire had piqued his curiosity, and his imagination had been aroused by the picture of a romantic young woman giving her fortune to save the souls of the people of Messina; his people whom he regarded and who regarded him less as a feudal lord than as a father and a comrade. He had pictured her as a nervous, angular woman with a pale, ascetic face, and with the restless eyes of an enthusiast, dressed in black and badly dressed, and with a severe and narrow intelligence. But he had prepared himself to forgive her personality, for the sake of the high and generous impulse that inspired her. And when he was presented to her as she really was, and found her young, lovable, and nobly fair, the shock of wonder and delight had held him silent during the whole course of her interview with the priest, and when she had left them his brain was in a tumult and was filled with memories of her words and gestures, and of the sweet fearlessness of her manner. Beautiful women he had known before as beautiful women, but the saving grace in his nature had never before been so deeply roused by what was fine as well as beautiful. It seemed as though it were too complete and perfect. For he assured himself that she possessed everything—those qualities which he had never valued before because he believed them to be unattainable, and those others which he had made his idols. She was with him, mind and heart and soul, in the one desire of his life that he took seriously; she was of his religion, she was more noble than his noble sisters, and she was more beautiful than the day. In the first glow of the meeting it seemed to him as though fate had called them to do this work together,—she from the far shore of the Pacific, and he from his rocky island in the Middle Sea. And he saw with cruel distinctness, that if there were one thing wanting, it was himself. He worshipped her before he had bowed his first good-by to her, and that night he walked for miles up and down the long lengths of the avenue of the Champs-Elysees, facing the great change that she had brought into his life, but knowing himself to be utterly unfit for her coming. He felt like an unworthy steward caught at his master's return unprepared, with ungirt loins, and unlighted lamp. Nothing he had done since he was a child gave him the right to consider himself her equal. He was not blinded by the approaches which other daughters and the mothers of daughters had made him. He knew that what was enough to excuse many things in their eyes might find no apology in hers. He looked back with the awakening of a child at the irrevocable acts in his life that could not be altered nor dug up nor hidden away. They marked the road he had trodden like heavy milestones, telling his story to every passer-by. She could read them, as everyone else could read them. He had wasted his substance, he had bartered his birthright for a moment's pleasure; there was no one so low and despicable who could not call him comrade, to whom he had not given himself without reserve. There was nothing left, and now the one thing he had ever wanted had come, and had found him like a bankrupt, his credit wasted and his coffers empty. He had placed himself at the beck and call of every idle man and woman in Paris, and he was as common as the great clock-face that hangs above the boulevards.
Miss Carson's feelings toward Kalonay were not of her own choosing, and had passed through several stages. When they had first met she had thought it most sad that so careless and unprincipled a person should chance to hold so important a part in the task she had set herself to do. She knew his class only by hearsay, but she placed him in it, and, accordingly, at once dismissed him as a person from her mind. Kalonay had never shown her that he loved her, except by those signs which any woman can read and which no man can conceal; but he did not make love to her, and it was that which first prepossessed her in his favor. One or two other men who knew of her fortune, and to whom she had given as little encouragement as she had to Kalonay, had been less considerate. But his attitude toward her was always that of a fellow-worker in the common cause. He treated her with a gratitude for the help she meant to give his people which much embarrassed her. His seriousness pleased her with him, seeing, as she did, that it was not his nature to be serious, and his enthusiasm and love for his half-civilized countrymen increased her interest in them, and her liking for him. She could not help but admire the way in which he accepted, without forcing her to make it any plainer, the fact that he held no place in her thoughts. And then she found that he began to hold more of a place in her thoughts than she had supposed any man could hold of whom she knew so little, and of whom the little she knew was so ill. She missed him when she went to the priest's and found that he had not sent for Kalonay to bear his part in their councils; and at times she felt an unworthy wish to hear Kalonay speak the very words she had admired him for keeping from her. And at last she learned the truth that she did love him, and it frightened her, and made her miserable and happy. They had not seen each other since he had left Paris for Messina, and though they spoke now only of his mission to the island, there was back of what they said the joy for each of them of being together again and of finding that it meant so much. What it might mean to the other, neither knew.
For some little time the King followed the two young people with his eyes, and then joined them, making signs to Kalonay that he wished him to leave them together; but Kalonay remained blind to his signals, and Barrat, seeing that it was not a tete-a-tete, joined them also. When he did so Kalonay asked the King for a word, and laying his hand upon his arm walked with him down the terrace, pointing ostensibly to where the yacht lay in the harbor. Louis answered his pantomime with an appropriate gesture, and then asked, sharply, "Well, what is it? Why did you bring me here? And what do you mean by staying on when you see you are not wanted?"
They were some distance from the others. Kalonay smiled and made a slight bow. "Your Majesty," he began, with polite emphasis. The King looked at him curiously.
"In the old days under similar circumstances," the Prince continued, with the air of a courtier rather than that of an equal, "had I thought of forming an alliance by marriage, I should have come to your Majesty first and asked your gracious approval. But those days are past, and we are living at the end of the century; and we do such things differently." He straightened himself and returned the King's look of amused interest with one as cynical as his own. "What I wanted to tell you, Louis," he said, quietly, "is that I mean to ask Miss Carson to become the Princess Kalonay."
The King raised his head quickly and stared at the younger man with a look of distaste and surprise. He gave an incredulous laugh.
"Indeed?" he said at last. "There was always something about rich women you could never resist."
The Prince made his acknowledgment with a shrug of his shoulders and smiled indifferently.
"I didn't expect you to understand," he said. "It does seem odd; it's quite as difficult for me to understand as for you. I have been through it a great many times, and I thought I knew all there was of it. But now it seems different. No, it does not seem different," he corrected himself; "it is different, and I love the lady and I mean to ask her to do me the honor to marry me. I didn't expect you to understand, I don't care if you do. I only wanted to warn you."
"Warn me?" interrupted the King, with an unpleasant smile. "Indeed! against what? Your tone is a trifle peremptory—but you are interesting, most interesting! Kalonay in a new role, Kalonay in love! Most interesting! Warn me against what?" he repeated sharply.
"Your Majesty has a certain manner," the Prince began, with a pretence of hesitation, "a charm of manner, I might say, which is proverbial. It is, we know, attractive to women. Every woman acknowledges it. But your Majesty is sometimes too gracious. He permits himself to condescend to many women, to any woman, to women of all classes——"
"That will do," said the King; "what do you mean?"
"What I mean is this," said Kalonay, lowering his voice and looking into the King's half-closed eyes. "You can have all of Miss Carson's money you want—all you can get. I don't want it. If I am to—marry her at all, I am not marrying her for her money. You can't believe that. It isn't essential that you should. But I want you to leave the woman I hope to make my wife alone. I will allow no pretty speeches, nor royal attentions. She can give her money where she pleases, now and always; but I'll not have her eyes opened to—as you can open them. I will not have her annoyed. And if she is——"
"Ah, and if she is?" challenged the King. His eyes were wide apart now and his lips were parted and drawn back from his teeth, like a snarling cat——
"I shall hold whoever annoys her responsible," Kalonay concluded, impersonally.
There was a moment's pause, during which the two men stood regarding each other warily.
Then the King stiffened his shoulders and placed his hands slowly behind his back. "That sounds, my dear Kalonay," he said, "almost like a threat."
The younger man laughed insolently. "I meant it, too, your Majesty," he answered, bowing mockingly and backing away.
As the King's guests seated themselves at his breakfast-table Louis smiled upon them with a gracious glance of welcome and approval. His manner was charmingly condescending, and in his appearance there was nothing more serious than an anxiety for their better entertainment and a certain animal satisfaction in the food upon his plate.
In reality his eyes were distributing the people at the table before him into elements favorable or unfavorable to his plans, and in his mind he shuffled them and their values for him or against him as a gambler arranges and rearranges the cards in his hand. He saw himself plainly as his own highest card, and Barrat and Erhaupt as willing but mediocre accomplices. In Father Paul and Kalonay he recognized his most powerful allies or most dangerous foes. Miss Carson meant nothing to him but a source from which he could draw the sinews of war. What would become of her after the farce was ended, he did not consider. He was not capable of comprehending either her or her motives, and had he concerned himself about her at all, he would have probably thought that she was more of a fool than the saint she pretended to be, and that she had come to their assistance more because she wished to be near a Prince and a King than because she cared for the souls of sixty thousand peasants. That she would surely lose her money, and could hardly hope to escape from them without losing her good name, did not concern him. It was not his duty to look after the reputation of any American heiress who thought she could afford to be unconventional. She had a mother to do that for her, and she was pretty enough, he concluded, to excuse many things,—so pretty that he wondered if he might brave the Countess Zara and offer Miss Carson the attentions to which Kalonay had made such arrogant objections. The King smiled at the thought, and let his little eyes fall for a moment on the tall figure of the girl with its crown of heavy golden hair, and on her clever, earnest eyes. She was certainly worth waiting for, and in the meanwhile she was virtually unprotected and surrounded by his own people. According to his translation of her acts, she had already offered him every encouragement, and had placed herself in a position which to his understanding of the world could have but one interpretation. What Kalonay's sudden infatuation might mean he could not foresee; whether it promised good or threatened evil, he could only guess, but he decided that the young man's unwonted show of independence of the morning must be punished. His claim to exclusive proprietorship in the young girl struck the King as amusing, but impertinent. It would be easy sailing in spite of all, he decided; for somewhere up above them in the hotel sat the unbidden guest, the woman against whom Father Paul had raised the ban of expulsion, but who had, nevertheless, tricked both him and the faithful Jackal.
The breakfast was drawing to an end and the faithful Niccolas was the only servant remaining in the room. The talk had grown intimate and touched openly upon the successful visit of the two ambassadors to the island, and of Barrat's mission to Paris. Of Madame Zara's visit to the northern half of the island, which was supposed to have been less successful, no mention was made.
Louis felt as he listened to them like a man at a play, who knows that at a word from him the complications would cease, and that were he to rise in the stalls and explain them away, and point out the real hero and denounce the villain, the curtain would have to ring down on the instant. He gave a little purr of satisfaction, and again marshalled his chances before him and smiled to find them good. He was grandly at peace with himself and with the world. Whatever happened, he was already richer by some 300,000 francs, and in a day, if he could keep the American girl to her expedition had been played he would be free,—free to return to his clubs and to his boulevards and boudoirs, with money enough to silence the most insolent among his creditors, and with renewed credit; with even a certain glamour about him of one who had dared to do, even though he had failed in the doing, who had shaken off the slothfulness of ease and had chosen to risk his life for his throne with a smoking rifle in his hand, until a traitor had turned fortune against him.
The King was amused to find that this prospect pleased him vastly. He was surprised to discover that, careless as he thought himself to be to public opinion, he was still capable of caring for its approbation; but he consoled himself for this weakness by arguing that it was only because the approbation would be his by a trick that it pleased him to think of. Perhaps some of his royal cousins, in the light of his bold intent, might take him under their protection instead of neglecting him shamefully, as they had done in the past. His armed expedition might open certain doors to him; his name—and he smiled grimly as he imagined it—would ring throughout Europe as the Soldier King, as the modern disciple of the divine right of kings. He saw, in his mind's eye, even the possibility of a royal alliance and a pension from one of the great Powers. No matter where he looked he could see nothing but gain to himself, more power for pleasure, more chances of greater fortune in the future, and while his lips assented to what the others said, and his eyes thanked them for some expression of loyalty or confidence, he saw himself in dreams as bright as an absinthe drinker's, back in his beloved Paris: in the Champs-Elysees behind fine horses, lolling from a silk box at the opera, dealing baccarat at the jockey Club, or playing host to some beautiful woman of the hour, in the new home he would establish for her in the discreet and leafy borders of the Bois.
He had forgotten his guests and the moment. He had forgotten that there were difficulties yet to overcome, and with a short, indrawn sigh of pleasure, he threw back his head and smiled arrogantly upon the sunny terrace and the green palms and the brilliant blue sea, as though he challenged the whole beautiful world before him to do aught but minister to his success and contribute to his pleasures.
And at once, as though in answer to his challenge, a tall, slim young man sprang lightly up the steps of the terrace, passed the bewildered guards with a cheery nod, and, striding before the open windows, knocked with his fist upon the portals of the door, as sharply and as confidently as though the King's shield had hung there, and he had struck it with a lance.
The King's dream shattered and faded away at the sound, and he moved uneasily in his chair. He had the gambler's superstitious regard for trifles, and this invasion of his privacy by a confident stranger filled him with sudden disquiet.
He saw Kalonay staring at the open windows with an expression of astonishment and dismay.
"Who is it?" the King asked, peevishly. "What are you staring at? How did he get in?"
Kalonay turned on Barrat, sitting at his right. "Did you see him?" he asked. Barrat nodded gloomily.
"The devil!" exclaimed the Prince, as though Barrat had confirmed his guess. "I beg your pardon," he said, nodding his head toward the women. He pushed back his chair and stood irresolutely with his napkin in his hand. "Tell him we are not in, Niccolas," he commanded.
"He saw us as he passed the window," the Baron objected.
"Say we are at breakfast then. I will see him myself in a moment. What shall I tell him?" he asked, turning to Barrat. "Do you think he knows? He must know, they have told him in Paris."
"You are keeping us waiting," said the King. "What is it? Who is this man?"
"An American named Gordon. He is a correspondent," Kalonay answered, without turning his head. His eyes were still fixed on the terrace as though he had seen a ghost.
The King slapped his hand on the arm of the chair. "You promised me," he said, "that we should be free from that sort of thing. That is why I agreed to come here instead of going to Algiers. Go out, Barrat, and send him away."
Barrat pressed his lips together and shook his head.
"You can't send him away like that," he said. "He is a very important young man."
"Find out how much he will take, then," exclaimed the King, angrily, "and give it to him. I can better afford to pay blackmail to any amount than have my plans spoiled now by the newspapers. Give him what he wants—a fur coat—they always wear fur coats—or five thousand francs, or something—anything—but get rid of him."
Barrat stirred uneasily in his chair and shrugged his shoulders. "He is not a boulevard journalist," he replied, sulkily.
"Your Majesty is thinking of the Hungarian Jews at Vienna," explained Kalonay, "who live on chantage and the Monte Carlo propaganda fund. This man is not in their class; he is not to be bought. I said he was an American."
"An American!" exclaimed Mrs. Carson and her daughter, exchanging rapid glances. "Is it Archie Gordon you mean?" the girl asked. "I thought he was in China."
"That is the man—Archie Gordon. He writes books and explores places," Kalonay answered.
"I know him. He wrote a book on the slave trade in the Congo," contributed Colonel Erhaupt. "I met him at Zanzibar. What does he want with us?"
"He was in Yokohama when the Japanese-Chinese war broke out," said Kalonay, turning to the King, "and he cabled a London paper he would follow the war for it if they paid him a hundred a week. He meant American dollars, but they thought he meant pounds, so they cabled back that they'd pay one-half that sum. He answered, 'One hundred or nothing,' and they finally assented to that, and he started; and when the first week's remittance arrived, and he received five hundred dollars instead of the one hundred he expected, he sent back the difference."
"What a remarkable young man!" exclaimed the King. "He is much too good for daily wear. We don't want anyone like that around here, do we?"
"I know Mr. Gordon very well," said Miss Carson. "He lived in San Francisco before he came East. He was always at our house, and was a great friend of the family; wasn't he, mother? We haven't seen him for two years now, but I know he wouldn't spoil our plans for the sake of his paper, if he knew we were in earnest, if he understood that everything depended upon its being kept a secret."
"We are not certain that he knows anything," the King urged. "He may not have come here to see us. I think Father Paul should talk with him first."
"I was going to suggest," said Miss Carson, with some hesitation, "that if I spoke to him I might be able to put it to him in such a way that he would see how necessary it——"
"Oh, excellent!" exclaimed the King, eagerly, and rising to his feet; "if you only would be so kind, Miss Carson."
Kalonay, misunderstanding the situation altogether, fastened his eyes upon the table and did not speak.
"He has not come to see you, Patricia," said Mrs. Carson, quietly.
"He does not know that I am here," Miss Carson answered; "but I'm sure if he did he would be very glad to see us again. And if we do see him we can make him promise not to do anything that might interfere with our plans. Won't you let me speak to him, mother?"
Mrs. Carson turned uncertainly to the priest for direction, and his glance apparently reassured her, for she rose, though still with a troubled countenance, and the two women left the room together, the men standing regarding each other anxiously across the table. When they had gone the King lit a cigarette and, turning his back on his companions, puffed at it nervously in silence. Kalonay sat moodily studying the pattern on the plate before him, and the others whispered together at the farther end of the table.
When Miss Carson and her mother stepped out upon the terrace, the American was standing with his back toward them and was speaking to the guards who sat cross-legged at the top of the steps. They showed no sign of surprise at the fact of his addressing them in their own tongue further than that they answered him with a show of respect which they had not exhibited toward those they protected. The American turned as he heard the footsteps behind him, and, after a startled look of astonishment, hurried toward the two women, exclaiming, with every expression of pleasure.
"I had no idea you were stopping here," he said, after the first greetings were over. "I thought you were somewhere on the Continent. I am so glad I caught you. It seems centuries since I saw you last. You're looking very well, Mrs. Carson—and as for Patty—I am almost afraid of her—I've been hearing all sorts of things about you lately, Patty," he went on, turning a smiling countenance toward the girl. "About your engagements to princes and dukes—all sorts of disturbing rumors. What a terrible swell you've grown to be. I hardly recognize you at all, Mrs. Carson. It isn't possible this is the same young girl I used to take buggy riding on Sunday evenings?"
"Indeed, it is not. I wish it were," said Mrs. Carson, plaintively, sinking into a chair. "I'm glad to see you're not changed, Archie," she added, with a sigh.
"Why, he's very much changed, mother," the girl said. "He's taller, and, in comparison with what he was, he's almost wasted away, and so sunburned I hardly knew him. Except round the forehead," she added, mockingly, "and I suppose the sun couldn't burn there because of the laurel-wreaths. I hear they bring them to you fresh every morning."
"They're better than coronets, at any rate," Gordon answered, with a nod. "They're not so common. And if I'm wasted away, can you wonder? How long has it been since I saw you, Patty?"
"No, I'm wrong, he's not changed," Miss Carson said dryly, as she seated herself beside her mother.
"How do you two come to be stopping here?" the young man asked. "I thought this hotel had been turned over to King Louis?"
"It has," Mrs. Carson answered. "We are staying at the Continental, on the hill there. We are only here for breakfast. He asked us to breakfast."
"He?" repeated Gordon, with an incredulous smile. "Who? Not the King—not that blackguard?"
Miss Carson raised her head, and stared at him in silence, and her mother gave a little gasp, apparently of relief and satisfaction.
"Yes," Miss Carson answered at last, coldly. "We are breakfasting with him. What do you know against him?"
Gordon stared at her with such genuine astonishment that the girl lowered her eyes, and, bending forward in her chair, twirled her parasol nervously between her fingers.
"What do I know against him? Why, Patty!" he exclaimed. "How did you meet him, in Heaven's name?" he asked, roughly. "Have you been seen with him? Have you known him long? Who had the impudence to present him?"
Mrs. Carson looked up, now thoroughly alarmed. Her lower lip was trembling, and she twisted her gloved hands together in her lap.
"What do you know against him?" Miss Carson repeated, meeting Gordon's look with one as full of surprise as his own.
The young man regarded her steadily for a few moments, and then, with a change of manner, as though he now saw the situation was much more serious than he had at first supposed, drew up a chair in front of the two women and seated himself deliberately.
"Has he borrowed any money from you yet?" he asked. Miss Carson's face flushed crimson and she straightened her shoulders and turned her eyes away from Gordon with every sign of indignation and disapproval. The young man gave an exclamation of relief.
"No? That's good. You cannot have known him so very long. I am greatly relieved."
"Louis of Messina," he began more gently, "is the most unscrupulous rascal in Europe. Since they turned him out of his kingdom he has lived by selling his title to men who are promoting new brands of champagne or floating queer mining shares. The greater part of his income is dependent on the generosity of the old nobility of Messina, and when they don't pay him readily enough, he levies blackmail on them. He owes money to every tailor and horse-dealer and hotel-keeper in Europe, and no one who can tell one card from another will play with him. That is his reputation. And to help him live up to it he has surrounded himself with a parcel of adventurers as rascally as himself: a Colonel Erhaupt who was dropped from a German regiment, and who is a Colonel only by the favor of the Queen of Madagascar; a retired croupier named Barrat; and a fallen angel called Kalonay, a fellow of the very best blood in Europe and with the very worst morals. They call him the King's jackal, and he is one of the most delightful blackguards I ever met. So is the King for that matter, a most entertaining individual if you keep him in his place, but a man no woman can know. In fact, Mrs. Carson," Gordon went on, addressing himself to the mother, "when you have to say that a woman has absolutely no reputation whatever you can best express it by explaining that she has a title from Louis of Messina. That is his Majesty's way of treating his feminine friends when they bore him and he wants to get rid of them. He gives them a title.
"The only thing the man ever did that was to his credit and that could be discussed in polite society is what he is doing now at this place, at this moment. For it seems," Gordon whispered, drawing his chair closer, "that he is about to show himself something of a man after all, and that he is engaged in fitting out an armed expedition with which he hopes to recover his kingdom. That's what brought me here, and I must say I rather admire him for attempting such a thing. Of course, it was Kalonay who put him up to it; he would never have stirred from the boulevards if that young man had not made him. But he is here, nevertheless, waiting for a favorable opportunity to sail, and he has ten thousand rifles and three Maxim guns lying in his yacht out there in the harbor. That's how I came to learn about it. I was getting an estimate on an outfit I was thinking of taking into Yucatan from my old gunsmith in the Rue Scribe, and he dropped a hint that he had shipped ten thousand rifles to Tangier, to Colonel Erhaupt. I have met Erhaupt in Zanzibar, and knew he was the King's right-hand man, so I put two and two together and decided I would follow them up, and——"
"Yes, and now," interrupted Miss Carson, sharply—"and now that you have followed them up, what do you mean to do?"
Gordon looked his surprise at her earnestness, but answered that he did not know what he would do; he thought he would either ask them to give him a commission in their expedition, and let him help them fight, and write an account of their adventures later, or he would telegraph the story at once to his paper. It was with him, he said, entirely a question as to which course would be of the greater news value. If he told what he now knew, his paper would be the first of all others to, inform the world of the expedition and the proposed revolution; while if he volunteered for the expedition and waited until it had failed or succeeded, he would be able to tell more eventually, but would have to share it with other correspondents.
Miss Carson regarded him with an expression in which indignation and entreaty were curiously blended.
"Archie," she said, in a low voice, "you do not know what you are doing or saying. You are threatening to spoil the one thing in my life on which I have set my heart. The return of this man to his throne, whether he is worthy or not, means the restoration of the Catholic Church on that island; it means the return of the monks and the rebuilding of the monasteries, and the salvation of sixty thousand souls. I know all that they mean to do. I am the one who paid for those rifles that brought you here; you have told me only what I have known for months, and for which I have been earnestly working and praying. I am not blinded by these men. They are not the creatures you describe; but no matter what they may be, it is only through them, and through them alone, that I can do what I have set out to do."
Gordon silenced her with a sweep of his hand. "Do you mean to tell me," he demanded, "that you are mixed up in this—with these—that they have taken money from you, and told you they meant to use it to re-establish the Church? Mrs. Carson," he exclaimed, bitterly, turning upon her, "why have you allowed this—what have you been doing while this was going on? Do you suppose those scoundrels care for the Church—the Church, indeed! Wait until I see them—any of them—Erhaupt by choice, and I'll make them give up every franc you've lent them, or I'll horsewhip and expose them for the gang of welshers and thimble-riggers they are; or if they prefer their own methods, I'll call them out in rotation and shoot their arms and legs off." He stopped and drew a long breath, either of content that he had discovered the situation in time to take some part in it, or at the prospect of a fight.
"The idea of you two helpless females wandering into this den of wolves!" he exclaimed, indignantly. "It's about time you had a man to look after you! You go back to your hotel now, and let me have a chat with Louis of Messina. He's kept me waiting some twenty minutes as it is, and that's a little longer than I can give him. I'm not a creditor." He rose from his chair; but Miss Carson put out her hand and motioned him to be seated.
"Archie," she said, "I like the way you take this, even though you are all wrong about it, because it's just like you to fly into a passion and want to fight someone for somebody. If your conclusions were anywhere near the truth, you would be acting very well. But they are not. The King is not handling my money, nor the Prince Kalonay. It is in the keeping of Father Paul, the Father Superior of the Dominican monks, who is the only one of these people I know or who knows me. He is not a swindler, too, is he, or a retired croupier? Listen to me now, and do not fly out like that at me, or at mother. It is not her fault. Last summer mother and I went to Messina as tourists, and one day, when passing through a seaport town, we saw a crowd of people on the shore, standing or kneeling by the hundreds in a great semicircle close to the water's edge. There was a priest preaching to them from an open boat. It was like a scene from the New Testament, and the man, this Father Paul, made me think of one of the disciples. I asked them why he did not preach on the land, and they told me that he and all of the priests had been banished from the island six years before, and that they could only return by stealth and dared not land except by night. When the priest had finished speaking, I had myself rowed out to his boat, and I talked a long time with him, and he told me of this plan to re-establish himself and his order. I offered to help him with my money, and he promised me a letter to Cardinal Napoli. It reached me on my return to Rome, and through the influence of the Cardinal I was given an audience with the Pope, and I was encouraged to aid Father Paul as far as I could. I had meant to build a memorial church for father, but they urged me to give the money instead to this cause. All my dealings until to-day have been with Father Paul alone. I have seen a little of the Prince Kalonay because they are always together; but he has always treated me in a way to which no one could take exception, and he is certainly very much in earnest. When Father Paul left Paris mother and I came on here in order to be near him, and that is how you find me at Tangier. And now that you understand how much this means to me, I know you will not do anything to stand in our way. Those men inside are afraid that you came here for just the reason that apparently has brought you, and when they saw you a little while ago through the windows they were greatly disturbed. Let me tell them that you mean to volunteer for the campaign. The King cannot refuse the services of a man who has done the things you are always doing. And I promise you that for a reward you shall be the only one to tell the story of our attempt. I promise you," she repeated earnestly, "that the day we enter the capital, you can cable whatever you please and tell our story to the whole of Europe."
"The story be hanged!" replied Gordon. "You have made this a much more serious business than a newspaper story. You misunderstand me utterly, Patty. I am here now because I am not going to have you compromised and robbed."
The girl stood up and looked down at the young man indignantly.
"You have no right whatever to use that tone to me," she said. "I am of age and my own adviser. I am acting for the good of a great number of people, and according to what my conscience and common sense tell me is right. I shall hate you if you attempt to interfere. You can do one of two things, Archie. I give you your choice: you can either go with them as a volunteer, and promise to keep our secret; or you can cable what you know now, what you know only by accident, but if you do, you will lose your best friend, and you will defeat a good and a noble effort."
Gordon leaned back in his chair, and looked up at her steadily for a brief moment, and then rose with a smile, and bowed to the two women in silence. He crossed the terrace quickly with an amused and puzzled countenance, and walked into the breakfast-room, from the windows of which, as he rightly guessed, the five conspirators had for some time observed him. He looked from one to the other of the men about the table, until his eyes finally met those of the King.
"I believe, sir, you are leading an expedition against the Republic of Messina?" Gordon said. "I am afraid it can't start unless you take me with you."
The presence in Tangier of the King of Messina and his suite, and the arrival there of the French noblemen who had volunteered for the expedition, could not escape the observation of the resident Consuls-General and of the foreign colony, and dinners, riding and hunting parties, pig-sticking, and excursions on horseback into the outlying country were planned for their honor and daily entertainment. Had the conspirators held aloof from these, the residents might have asked, since it was not to enjoy themselves, what was the purpose of their stay in Tangier; and so, to allay suspicion as to their real object, different members of the expedition had been assigned from time to time to represent the visitors at these festivities. On the morning following the return of the yacht from Messina, an invitation to ride to a farmhouse some miles out of Tangier and to breakfast there had been sent to the visitors, and the King had directed the Prince Kalonay, and half of the delegation from Paris, to accept it in his name.
They were well content to go, and rode forth gayly and in high spirits, for the word had been brought them early in the morning that the expedition was already prepared to move, and that same evening at midnight the yacht would set sail for Messina. They were careless as to what fortune waited for them there. The promise of much excitement, of fighting and of danger, of possible honor and success, stirred the hearts of the young men gloriously, and as they galloped across the plains, or raced each other from point to point, or halted to jump their ponies across the many gaping crevices which the sun had split in the surface of the plain, they filled the still, warm air with their shouts and laughter. In the party there were many ladies, and the groups changed and formed again as they rode forward, spread out on either side of the caravan-trail and covering the plain like a skirmish line of cavalry. But Kalonay kept close at Miss Carson's stirrup, whether she walked her pony or sent him flying across the hard, sunbaked soil.
"I hope you won't do that again," he said, earnestly, as she drew up panting, with her sailor hat and hair falling to her shoulders. They had been galloping recklessly over the open crevices in the soil.
"It's quite the nastiest country I ever saw," he said. "It looks as though an earthquake had shaken it open and had forgotten to close it again. Believe me, it is most unsafe and dangerous. Your pony might stumble—" He stopped, as though the possibilities were too serious for words, but the girl laughed.