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Title: The Heart Of The Anarchist Author: Fred M White * A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1201331h.html Language: English Date first posted: February 2012 Date most recently updated: February 2012 This eBook was produced by: Roy Glashan Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia License which may be viewed online at http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html
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YOUR Majesty," said the Chancellor, "is so pig-head—so headstrong!"
His Majesty replied with some heat that the Chancellor was perilously on the verge of becoming a dreary old—well, fossil. Then Rudolph remembered himself and apologised almost as humbly as he used to do when Count Ferrera was acting Regent over the Kingdom of Farsala.
"You are not a bit like your father, sir," Ferrera said half regretfully.
For Rudolph I. had been a puppet in the hands of this terrible old man with the flashing eyes and white hair. The man of fire and marble had dragged his frightened master after him over the flaming bridge of the reeking, breathless years, to plant him, dazed and bewildered, upon one of the strongest thrones in Europe. Then Ferrera returned to his whist with a comfortable sense of accomplished destiny.
But fire and marble, blood and tears, like dragons' teeth, leave their crop behind them, and thenceforth the Anarchists were a sore thorn in the side of the terrible old Chancellor. He could hold them under, and he did. But this did not tend to save the life of poor Rudolph I., probably the kindest and most amiable monarch who ever sat uneasily on a throne. The story of that senseless, useless, sickening tragedy is fresh in the mind of Europe yet.
And now Rudolph II. stood in the shoes of his murdered father. There was no frightening him. He had the strength of a Hercules and the heart of a lion. He was brave and quick and accomplished, and a rare handful for Ferrera, who was loth to relinquish his power. Rudolph was going to cut his name deep in the granite front of history, only Ferrera had no wish to see it done all at once.
"If your Majesty were less wild and daring!" he murmured.
"0f course I am!" the King cried. "Did you ever know a promising young man who wasn't? Look at your own youth—twice in gaol, once a narrow escape of being shot! There was Madame Le Genlis and the beautiful Bertha—"
Ferrera hastened to change the subject. If his Majesty would only take proper precautions to guard his sacred person, the rest would not matter so much. In sooth, the grim old Chancellor loved the boy as if he had been his own son, though he would have cut off his right hand rather than own it. His Majesty ought to consider his people. Going out hunting alone was all very well, but ill would assuredly come of it. And did his Majesty know that Carl Brema was known to have returned to Farsala again?
"The Anarchist!" the King cried. "The most picturesque outlaw in Europe. Egad, Ferrera! I'd give half of the coal dues to meet him."
"If your Majesty pursues your present life," said Ferrera drily, " you are likely to meet him on far more economical terms."
In spite of all warnings, Rudolph went off with rod and fly-books, with nobody but a favourite groom for company. He had but recently purchased the "cottage" at Farma, some eighteen miles from the capital of Farsala, where the trout-fishing was almost a proverb. And Nello, the groom, knew every inch of the water, for he had been bred and born at Farma, and many a day's poaching had he known on that famous chalk-stream.
"Now we are going to enjoy ourselves," the King said gaily. "The Stadt is up for a month, and there is nobody but Count Ferrera to worry me, unless Carl Brema turns up, which would be annoying. Did you ever hear of Brema, Nello?"
Nello flirted out a shining cast of English-made flies out across the stream dexterously.
"I have seen him and spoken to him lots of times, sire," he said.
"And you never told me! Have you seen him here?"
"He lived here," Nello explained. "The great English artist, from whom your Majesty purchased the cottage just as it stands, in turn bought it from the Government. It belonged to Carl Brema's father, who also was a great artist in his day. The Government forfeited the property on account of the treason of the elder Brema. Carl Brema's mother was turned out at death's door, and died in the garden where the fountain is. Those were bad days, when the sword ruled in Farsala. Carl Brema was a boy then."
His Majesty remarked impatiently that it was a beastly shame—he had been two years at Eton and hoped to marry an English princess; that, upon his honour, he should have turned Socialist himself under the like conditions; and a great many other indiscreet remarks that fortunately could not reach the ears of his sage Chancellor.
"Tell me some more about Carl Brema," he demanded.
But Nello had not much to say. There was a deal of local tradition, for the neighbourhood was proud, in a way, of its Nihilist celebrity. But it was in Russia and Italy that Brema had made his great reputution. Like Stepniak, he had had many adventures. He was a widower, with one beautiful daughter, who was dying of consumption. And years ago, during one of the Nihilist's secret visits to his old home, the girl had been born here.
All of which information his Majesty kept discreetly from the Chancellor what time he returned to dinner in high good humour and with a full creel of trout. He was delighted with his cottage, charmed with its unique old oak and pictures and china. He was going to take up painting again. It was a pity to have so handsome a studio, filled with lay figures and everything to woo the brush, and yet not use it. Ferrera said that was all very well, but he should like to see a few soldiers about the place.
"Not a scarlet coat nor a wisp of gold lace!" the King cried. "No menservants, no lackeys, nor anything besides Nello and the maids. This is freedom, Ferrera; and upon my word, I revel in it."
* * * * *
His Majesty was smoking cigarettes in the studio. He had dined, he was tired, and he was at peace with all the world. Ferrera had gone post haste to the capital on business connected with some laggard diplomacy. He had departed much as an anxious peasant mother might have done who leaves the children alone with a box of matches. And to soothe him, his Majesty had promised not to leave the house.
Presently there was somebody at the telephone. For once, royalty regretted the absence of retinue. Perforce he had to get up from his nest of Persian rugs and answer the call in person. It was Ferrera, calling aloud from the capital for a red despatch-box. Would the King allow Nello to ride as far as Cammes, where a mounted messenger from the capital would meet him?
"Consider it done," his Majesty yawned. "Hi! Nello—the red despatch- box from the Count's writing-table; you are to ride with it as far as Cammes. Get me a fresh box of cigarettes and begone!"
Thus the King was alone in the house, and the women of the household had gone to bed. As a mere precaution, the ruler of Farsala strolled round the house and locked the doors. The blinds were down, save in the studio, where there were no blinds. Shaded lamps had been lighted everywhere. Verily, the cottage was a museum of rare and beautiful things. Rudolph could imagine anybody growing passionately fond of so refined and artistic a home. It seemed almost impossible to imagine this as the birthplace of a bloodthirsty Anarchist. Carl Brema's father had got all this antique oak and china together. His Nihilism had been of a type that even Russia tolerates to-day. It was hard lines, Rudolph thought.
He was thinking it all over as he stood musing in the studio by the dim light of a crescent moon. Carl Brema had seen his mother die outside yonder on the grass. That was the sort of thing that drives headstrong men to crime The lay figure yonder might have been an Anarchist ready to spring. A shadow crossed the bare window—perhaps that was another. But the shadow came again, all in white, and a pair of white hands beat passionately on the long windows opening to the lawn, and a piteous voice begged for admission. Without a minute's hesitation, Rudolph flung back the French sash and caught a faint, light, silked body in his arms. The girl hung there breathlessly for a moment.
"Get me to the light!" she gasped. "Your life depends upon it—quick!"
UNDER the streaming lamplight, Rudolph saw a beautiful face like marble, save for the hectic flush on the cheeks; he saw a pair of liquid eyes filled with terror and a fearsome gladness. He poured out a glass of wine and coaxed a little of it past the girl's lips.
"Now tell me who you are, little one?" he asked gently.
"Sire," the girl replied, " I am Enid Brema. Carl Brema is my father. He is close by, and there are two others. It was a mere trick, a tapping of the telephone wire, that deprived you of your servant's assistance. It was here that my father's mother died in his arms. Oh! your Majesty understands?"
Rudolph nodded grimly. He perfectly understood the situation; his imagination grappled with the dramatic scheme of vengeance. Three of the most reckless and dangerous criminals in Europe were close by, and he was alone. The frank, boyish look had gone from his face. He had often pictured some such plight as this. And now the time had come to act.
"I owe you a debt I shall find it hard to repay," he said. "I see you have risked a deal to come and save me. Why?"
"Because I am dying," the girl said simply. "If I had done nothing, I should have been a murderess. I couldn't die like that. And so I came. You look upon my father as a man without heart or feeling?"
"It is the accepted point of view," Rudolph said guardedly.
"Then it is wrong!" Enid cried. "No nobler or kinder man breathes! And he has never soiled his hands in crime. And there are some men who are sane on all points but one. And then to find you here, of all places in the world! It seemed like a foul insult to my father's mother's memory."
"I did not know till yesterday," Rudolph murmured.
"I believe you. They say you are good and kind. I argued with my father, I fell on my knees before him, I asked him to see you, and he laughed me to scorn. And I am afraid, terribly afraid, for both of you if you meet. Listen!"
There came the sound of stealthy feet outside. Rudolph turned down the lamp.
"Which way are they coming?" he asked.
"By way of the studio. There is a patent catch on the window which anyone familiar with can undo. One comes first to make sure of the ground, then the other to guard the exits, and, after him, my father. Let me go and draw them off. Let me go and make a diversion whilst you escape—"
Rudolph shook his head grimly.
"I am not going to escape," he said. "I have a plan. Do you creep upstairs and into the first room you come to. Even if you hear the sounds of firearms or strife, be silent. And if I am successful, there is a reward waiting for you far beyond your wildest dreams. Now go."
The girl obeyed silently. She was tired and weary and worn out. Rudolph heard her laggard steps impatiently, he heard the door close, and then he hastened to the studio. His own coat and smoking-cap were whipped off and hastily huddled on to the lay figure lounging on the sofa. A briar pipe was thrust into the mouth—a pipe filled with damp tobacco, into which a hot fusee was rammed. Swiftly, and yet without hurry, Rudolph looked around him. His eyes fell upon a score or more of fishing-reels holding hundreds of yards of strong salmon-lines. Then he crouched behind a suit of armour close to the couch and waited. There was no fear in his heart, nothing but a deep lust in the joy of the coming strife.
His patience was not unduly tried. Presently there came a crunching footstep on the gravel, a dark shadow fell athwart the floor, a hand was laid upon the catch of the window. After a little time, there came a cold gust of air, that caused the pipe in the lay figure's mouth to glow. The studio was filled with a pungent smell of fresh tobacco.
In the dim moonlight the shadow was coming nearer. Rudolph could hear heavy breathing and a subdued chuckle. Then the intruder became aware of the lay figure and paused. Here was the object of the raid, utterly unconscious of danger, ready for the knife. The Anarchist slipped towards the victim; Rudolph crept out and stood on tiptoe behind him.
The King calculated his distance to a nicety. He jumped forward, and passing his hand over the intruder's shoulder, gripped him by the throat. Once the feeling of utter surprise was past, the Anarchist struggled violently. He might as well have tried to free himself from the grasp of some powerful machinery. And the hold on his throat was bringing the red stars before his eyes.
"If you utter one word," said the King, "you are a dead man!"
But the other had abandoned the useless struggle. He suffered himself to be bent backwards and a handkerchief stuffed into his mouth. His hands and legs were bound in yards upon yards of the fishing-line, until he was trussed up like a silkworm in its slimy net. As if he had been a child, Rudolph picked him up and carried him to the dining-room. The lay figure, with the still glowing pipe in its mouth, seemed to look on with grotesque approval. Rudolph dumped his burden down and rolled him under the table, A long tapestry cover hid that evil fruit of the night from view. With a deeper, fiercer joy in the combat, the King returned to the studio.
So far fortune had favoured him. With strength and prudence on his side, he felt confident of the issue. It would be assumed by those outside that their colleague was guarding one of the exits. It was just as well that the Anarchists were so prudent. And here was another of them coming. The draught came in strongly, there was a deep glow in the dummy's pipe.
The second man displayed a little more caution than the first. There was something more creepy and murderous in his step. Once in the studio, he stopped. Obviously he was scared by the appearance of that still brooding figure with the pipe in its mouth. The first marauder could never have passed that. But then it was just possible that the other man had skulked into the cottage, and that the King had just come here. The new-comer stepped back, hesitated, and stood still for a moment.
If he took real alarm now, Rudolph felt that he had had all his pains for nothing. It would never do to let this fellow escape. The next few moments were anxious ones. What would the intruder do?
Apparently he decided to go on. Probably he reflected that Brema's watchful eyes were near, and that he would see that the victim made no escape. He crept within a few inches of Rudolph, and the next instant half the life was being crushed out of him by a pair of strong arms. The attack was so sudden, so fierce, that the victim could do no more than gasp. In the pallid moonlight the King could see a pallid, shifty, mean face, and he laughed silently. This was not the kind of thing that Anarchists were made of. This fellow had come for nothing more than loot.
"Don't speak," Rudolph said grimly. "If you do, I shall break your neck. What is the signal? Whisper it."
"The big Venetian clock in the hall," the white-faced man gasped. "Calo was to have moved the hands on to midnight and make it strike before its time. Brema can hear the signal outside."
"Um. That is very clever and not in the least likely to excite suspicion. Come this way. And if you make the faintest sound, you will cease to be interested in things mundane any more. Give me your handkerchief."
The trembling man obeyed. Rudolph gagged him as he had done the other. Then his palsied limbs were trussed up like a partridge ready for the spit, and he also was dragged into the dining-room.
"There!" Rudolph exclaimed in high good humour. "You will find yourself in excellent company, although you will not be bored with too much conversation. Now, I am going to make the family party complete by the addition of the most distinguished Carl Brema!"
He passed into the hall, where the great Venetian clock stood. It still wanted some five-and-twenty minutes to the hour. Rudolph opened the face and put the hands on till it pointed close to midnight. In the studio the dummy still sat smoking. The King threw a cloak over it; his decoy was no longer needed. He stood back in the shadow of the window and waited. Something gleamed fitfully in his hand. There was a buzz of wheels, and the silver bells of the great clock chimed twelve.
THE vibrating echo of the chimes died away. From a distant somewhere a lamb was bleating. Beyond the village a dog whined. The sounds only served to mark the intense silence. Rudolph was unpleasantly conscious of the beating of his own heart. Brave as he was, he knew the enormity of the task before him. Brema's scouts he had tricked with contempt. Brema himself was a different matter.
He was coming. The King's strained ears told him that. A shadow of a long head and a close-fitting hat crossed the moonlight. Like a shadow himself, Brema crept into the room. Almost instantly the cool rim of a revolver pressed upon his temple.
"Put up your hands, Brema," the King said quietly.
With a gentle sigh, Brema complied. He expressed no emotion; he did not seem in the least surprised or disappointed.
"That was neatly done," he said coolly. "Your Majesty should be one of us. And you are all alone, too!"
"I am all alone, as you say. And your friends are being carefully looked after. Precede me to the dining-room; you know the way."
Brema's teeth clicked together. He caught his breath with something like a sob. He knew the way only too well.
"I am not likely to forget it," he said slowly. "By all rights, divine and human, this place belongs to me. The sight, the scent, the smell turns my heart to water. And then the knowledge of my wrongs?"
His voice was quiet, low, almost caressing. In the hall, Rudolph looked at his victim. He was slight and spare, with a white, gentle face and deep, melancholy eyes. His thick hair was prematurely grey. It seemed almost impossible to believe that here was one of the most dangerous revolutionaries in Europe. And yet it was so.
He stepped back involuntarily half a pace as if to admire a picture. In some magical way his heels crooked in between the King's legs, and they came to the ground in a heap together. Rudolph's revolver was jerked from his hand and kicked to a safe distance.
Then followed a struggle, short but severe. Brema seemed to fight with the strength of a dozen men. He was elusive and slippery as an eel. They fought along the floor and into the dining-room, until by mutual consent they parted breathlessly, sobbing and gasping for air. Swiftly Brema locked the door and dropped into a chair.
"Now we are man to man," he gasped, "we will parley. On the whole, I have rather the advantage of you."
Thinking of the helpless figures so close at hand, the King was discreetly silent. Brema was gazing round the room avidly. Though his eyes were shining with the lust of battle, his lips quivered. He took a little Mazarin-blue spill-cup from a bracket behind him.
"Your Majesty's predecessor showed rare good taste in leaving everything here severely alone," he said. "The pictures and cabinets and china are as they were when I was a boy, with dreams of being a great artist. This cup is the one strange item, and I fear it is a forgery."
He held it at arm's length critically.
"I believe you are right," the King said. "It is out of place here. Therefore, we will dispose of it—thus."
There was a muffled report, a puff of smoke apparently exuding from his Majesty's person, and the spill-cup splintered into a score of pieces. The King lounged smilingly in his arm-chair, his hands deep in the pockets of the shooting-jacket he had donned after dinner. Brema was shaken out of his equanimity now. He regarded the fragments at his feet with an astonishment absolute and complete.
"Your Majesty is not alone, after all!" he stammered.
"Indeed I am," Rudolph smiled. "You thought you had the advantage of me, but you are mistaken. You are covered with my spare revolver at the present moment. It is in my jacket pocket. I learnt that trick of shooting through the pocket in America. I practised it with a perseverance that has been rewarded, as you see. I have only to crook my forefinger slightly, and you are as useless as that bit of Mazarin-blue. If I did so—?"
"Your Majesty would have the applause of the civilised world."
"I know it. And you came here to murder me?"
"I came here with an open mind. Also there were men with me ready to do my bidding. It was I who tapped the telephone wire and imitated Count Ferrera's voice. I had planned this thing out carefully. It seemed like the irony of fate to come and kill you here whence your minions expelled the best of mothers, the woman who died close by of a broken heart. My father was a loyal citizen, sire."
"I am prepared to admit it, Brema. I have been making a careful investigation of your case. Your father's sentiments to-day would be held to be no more than Radical views. But at that date, in the then perilous condition of Farsala, we could not afford too much liberty. Still, Ferrera's servants were wrong. The expulsion of your mother was an act of barbarity—one of many, I fear, in those troubled times. You loved this place?"
A queer spasm of emotion trembled on Brema's lips.
"With my whole heart and soul," he said. "I loved all the treasures here—every inch of the orchards, and cornlands, and vineyards was familiar to me. And it was my dream to be a great artist like my father. And he was a true patriot, sire, as sure as I am a wandering outcast whose life you hold in your hand. I have been driven to this. When I shut my eyes, I can see my mother lying yonder on the grass, with the soldiers thrusting her on with their rifles. She said she was dying, and they laughed. And she died there and then. When I think of that, the red light comes into my eyes and I am mad. Not that I hold with the slaying of rulers—save one."
"Meaning myself, of course?"
"Yes, your Majesty. As your father died before you. But I had no hand in that— violence is no part of my policy. I would have asked pardon ten years ago; I came back to serve my country, but the police ignored my suggestions. It was a bitter pill, but not for myself."
"You are alluding to your daughter now?"
"Yes, sire. A girl as sweet and tender as she is beautiful. And she is dying—dying under my eyes, of consumption. God help me when she is gone! Men call me a wild beast now—what shall I be like then? And the cruel irony of it all is that the doctors say she might recover if she came back to her native air. I—I thought if I could make you my prisoner to-night, if I could stand over you with a revolver to your breast, I might, I might—but that is all a dream now."
Brema's words trailed off to a broken whisper, his head fell upon his breast. The King watched him in a dreamy kind of way. It seemed almost impossible to believe that this slight, white man, mourning upon a half-made grave, could be one whom half Europe held in terror.
"Why?" he asked. "Why should it be a dream? Kings, like Nihilist leaders, are only human, after all. You have been badly treated, Brema—your father was badly treated; and when I think of your mother, I am filled with shame. There!"
From his shooting-jacket he produced his revolver and tossed it on the table. It was magnificent, but it was not war. It touched Brema, it brought the tears into his eyes. Here was a monarch whom he had heard well spoken of. The splendid audacity of it touched the Anarchist to the soul.
"My daughter told me you were a good man," he said. "She warned me for the best. Ah! if you knew, your Majesty; if you could only see her! If you could only give me an amnesty for a day, till I could bring her to your feet."
"Nonsense!" Rudolph cried. "I would kiss her hand. She has done me a service to-night that I can never forget. And as to seeing your daughter, I have had speech with her already."
"Your Majesty is pleased to jest!" Brema gasped.
"On the contrary, I was never more in earnest in my life. As a matter of fact, your daughter is under my roof—this roof—at this very moment."
IT was some little time before Brema spoke. When at length he looked up, there was a curious smile on his face.
"My daughter came to warn your Majesty of your danger?" he asked.
"And at the same time to betray you into my hands. You can imagine the agony and distress of mind of the poor girl. She looks upon you as the best and noblest of mankind. It is your boast that your hands are free from blood "
"Pshaw!" Brema cried. "The brute beast methods are none of mine."
"Yet, my good Brema, you cannot touch pitch without being defiled. Depend upon it, your daughter thought the whole matter out carefully. She would come to me and save my life, and plead for you afterwards. Under the circumstances, she argued—quite logically—that I must be merciful. So she came. I laid a little trap for your confederates, and they fell into it. I set the clock for your benefit also. Your accomplices are under the table. Bring them out."
Brema complied. The King took a knife from his pocket and contemptuously indicated that their bands should be cut.
"Wait!" Brema cried hoarsely. "When I came here to-night, I meant to kill your Majesty! When I crept into the house and saw all the old, familiar objects about me, a madness filled my brain. I should have struck you down without mercy. And now you have me—have all of us in your power. For Heaven's sake don't be rash!—don't place such a hideous temptation in my way!" He spoke as if pleading for some boon. Great drops stood on his forehead.
"Release them!" Rudolph commanded. "I am not afraid of them, seeing that I am not even afraid of you! You will never cut deep with two such poor, pitiful tools as these. Set them free!"
He stood up—big, strong, powerful, with the light of resolution shining in his eyes. Brema slashed the clinging cords away; he pulled the gag from the mouths of his discomfited allies. They looked small and mean enough now, but they would have done murder at the instigation of their chief, and the King of Farsala stood alone in their midst. All the hot anger died out of the Anarchist's heart.
"Bid them go!" Rudolph cried. "Dismiss them!"
They needed no second bidding. They passed like bats into the night. The King's manner changed, a ripple of laughter came from his lips. "Confess it!" he cried —"you are not sorry now that your daughter came here."
"From the bottom of my heart I am glad," Brema cried. "Your Majesty has beaten and humiliated me in every way. Never will I raise a hand against you again. Now call my child, and let us go, before—"
The Anarchist hesitated; he moistened his dry lips. There was a curious gentleness on his face, yet his eyes were troubled as he looked about him.
"The madness will not return," Rudolph said quietly. "Sit down and talk, Brema. I have need of men like you, Brema. Farsala wants you. And they tell me your child may recover in her native air."
"If I could only leave her here!" Brema murmured. "If your Majesty would permit—"
"And why not? The girl saved my life. Incidentally, she has probably saved you from the gallows. She shall stay here; and if you like to take the oath of allegiance, there is a commission in the Army ready for you. And if I come here occasionally—"
"Your Majesty!" Brema said falteringly. "What do you mean?"
"That the place is yours. It was forfeited to the Crown quite unjustly. And I am going to restore it to you just as it stands. Ferrera will laugh at me— oh! he will laugh at me most confoundedly! Brema, shall we show him that the laugh is on our side?"
Brema sat there speechless. His face was all broken up and there were tears in his eyes. Some mumbling words escaped him. He turned to Rudolph. The latter was sniffing like a hound in the air.
"Don't you smell something burning?" he exclaimed. "Egad! it would be a pity to lose the place just as you came into it again, Brema. I know! When I threw that cloth over the lay model, I forgot the lighted pipe—"
There was a little cry outside and the patter of light feet. Without ceremony, Enid Brema dashed into the room.
"Your Majesty!" she gasped, "I dared not stay any longer. A fire has broken out in the house—in the studio... Father!"
"I am here in the service of my King!" Brema cried. "No more wanderings, my child. You have saved my soul to-night, and I have found the one man I can call my master. Come along. Where shall we find water?"
In the studio the fire had gained a good grip. A heap of picture-frames and easels were glowing and flickering, the lay model, cause of all the mischief, one gleaming mass. The place was full of acrid smoke, beyond the veil a series of crocus blue and yellow eyes flared.
"Stand back, child!" Rudolph cried. "I am going into the little fernery to the right yonder. There is a hose and tap there. Brema, do you try and close the window, to keep the draught down."
Rudolph plunged into the smoke with the zest of a schoolboy. At some considerable risk, Brema contrived to close the window. Presently there was a roar of delight from the fernery, followed by a spurt of water and the hiss of steam. At the end of half an hour the flames were beaten flat and dead.
"I hope your Majesty is not hurt," Enid said timidly.
"My Majesty is as jolly as a sandboy!" Rudolph cried. "I never remember enjoying myself more. A perfectly delightful evening of adventures. Farce to tragedy and tragedy to farce. And that is life!"
"Farce enough!" a deep voice growled. "What's the meaning of this? Still, I am only too thankful to find you alive, sire."
"Ferrera!" Rudolph cried. "Why back so soon?"
"Because I have been hoaxed!" Ferrera thundered. "And Nello here was dragged out on the same fool's errand. I came back expecting to find that some ghastly tragedy had been enacted. Brema is close by—"
"At your elbow," Rudolph said coolly. "Brema, this is my devoted and dear old friend and tutor, Count Ferrera. Ferrera— Brema. The house was on fire, and Carl Brema took the risk of getting it under. He has been of the greatest service to me."
"It seems to me that I have arrived in time," Ferrera growled.
"Just in time, Count. Brema has saved the house—he and his daughter between them. And Brema had come all this way to place his services at my disposal, and to— er—become a credit to Farsala. That being so, it is my good pleasure to restore his family property and to ask permission of his daughter to stay here for the present. Ferrera, there is a lady present."
"Perhaps, on the whole, it is a good thing," Ferrera said sotto voce.
There was something bitter in his politeness. Rudolph cast a warning glance at Brema, who understood that the early events of the evening were to remain a secret between his sovereign and himself. He took the King's hand and carried it silently to his lips.
* * * * *
"The man is a dangerous Radical, your Majesty, and will ever remain so," said the Chancellor.
"He was," Rudolph laughed. "Do you remember the story of the Scotch Radical who so suddenly changed his views and became a rigid old Tory? When reproached with his backslidings, he responded that in the old days he 'had nae coo,' which is Gaelic for cow. So soon as he acquired a cow, he became a respectable member of society."
"The moral of which is, your Majesty?"
"That Brema has got his 'coo'"
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