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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe King's Jackal - Chapter 2
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The King's Jackal - Chapter 2 Post by :best4you Category :Long Stories Author :Richard Harding Davis Date :May 2012 Read :2652

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The King's Jackal - Chapter 2

Chapter II

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."

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The King's Jackal - Chapter 3 The King's Jackal - Chapter 3

The King's Jackal - Chapter 3
Chapter IIIThe 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

The King's Jackal - Chapter 1 The King's Jackal - Chapter 1

The King's Jackal - Chapter 1
Chapter IThe 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