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A Son of the Immortals
CHAPTER X. (Continued) Wherein the Shadows Deepen BE AX I listened with a rapt attention to Alec's statement of his policy. "I agree most fully with every word that has fallen from your lips," he said ; "but your Majesty cannot achieve these splendid aims single handed. You must be sur rounded by able men; you need officials of ripe experience in every department. Now, the first consideration of a small State like this, hemmed in as it is by powerful Kingdoms which the least change in the political barometer may convert into active enemies, is a strong and progressive system of finance. lam vain enough to think that you may find my services useful in that direction. There is no man in Delgratz who has had my training, and so assured am 1 of the success that will attend your Majesty's reign that I purposely delayed my arrival here so that I might not come empty handed. I passed a week in Vienna, working and thinking twenty hours out of each twenty-four. 1 felt my way cautiously with the leading financial houses there. Of course I could not say much, because I was unauthorized; but 1 have obtained guarantees that will command the certain issue of a loan suffi cient to give a start to some, at least, of the many projects you have already foreshadowed in your public speeches. Without a shadow of doubt I declare that as soon as I am able to open negotiations with your approval a loan of several millions will be at your service." Though the Greek was putting forward an obvious bait, it was evident that the King was astonished by his outspoken declaration. "Do 1 understand that you are applying for the post of Minister of Finance " he said in his straightforward way. "Yes, your Majesty," replied Beliani. " You appreciate, of course, that I occupy a some what peculiar position here," said Alec. " I am a constitutional monarch backed by a constitution that is little more than a name. This country really demands an autocracy, whereas I have sworn to govern only by the will of the people. In those circumstances I do not feel myself at liberty to appoint or dismiss Ministers at my own sweet will. I assure you that I am grateful for the offer of help you bring; but I cannot give you the appointment you seek until, in the first place, I have consulted my council and obtained its sanction." Beliani bowed. "I will leave the matter entirely in your Majesty's hands," he said, and by no sign did his well governed face betray his satisfaction; for. with the King on his side, the astute Greek well knew that he could pull the strings of the puppets in the Assembly to suit his own ends. "V/fAY I venture to suggest to your Majesty," he IYi went on, "that there is one thing that demands immediate attention? yourv our position cannot be regarded as assured until you have received the recognition of the chief European States. Has Austria made any move in that direction? Have you been approached by Russia? One of those two will take the initiative, and the others will follow." "So far," said Alec, smiling, " I have been favored with a telegram from the German Emperor, which his charge d'affaires tried to explain away next day. It was followed by a protest from Turkey on account of an alleged disrespectful remark of mine about her position in the cosmogony of Europe, and I have drawn a polite refusal from Austria to modify pass port regulations, which, by the way, I suggested should be altogether done away with.' Other Kings and Principalities have left me severely alone." "But it would be a grave error to drop the pass port system," said Befiani earnestly. "It is most important that your Majesty's police should be acquainted with the identity of all strangers; other wise you would never know what secret agents of your enemies you might be harboring here." "I trouble my head very little about the secret agents of enemies that do not exist," said Alec lightly. "You are probably thinking of the revolt of the Seventh Regiment; but that is a domestic quarrel, a local phase of the war waged by all crimi nals against representatives of law and order. To be sure. I shall devote every effort to keeping Kosnovia free of external troubles; yet passports are useless here. 1 find that a stupid dream of a Slav Empire has drugged the best intellects of Kosnovia lor half a century. That sort of political hashish must cease to control our actions. It has served only to cripple our commercial expansion, and I have declined resolutely to countenance its con tinuance, either in public or private. Let us first develop the land we own. Believe me. Monsieur Beliani, if our people are worthy of extending their sway, no power on earth can stop them, but they must first learn to till the field with implements other than swords or bayonets, which are quite out of date either as plows or as reaping hooks. pRIXCE MICHAEL, watching them furtively. and wondering much what topic was engaging them so deeply, could no longer restrain his impati ence. He joined them, saying with his jaunty, self. Copyright. '•'■•■ by 1i.!»a..l . « 1... 1.- . I , ll(riri | .., Sutfamen' HaM BY LOUIS TRACY Drawing by Howard Chandler Christy SYNOPSIS OF PRECEDING CHAPTERS J( >A\ VERMIN, heroine of the story, was a tine look ing young Vermont artist Studying in Paris. She had no family, but was watched over protectingly by Felix Poluski, a nuaint. shrewd hunchback who' had been driven out of Warsaw for his nihilistic proclivities. Alexis, the hero, who loved Joan, was son of Prince Michael Delgrado, ■ weak, semsfa fop, who was in line for the throne of Kosnovia. one of the Balkan States. A mutiny of the Seventh Regiment at Delgratz, capi tal of Kosnovia, resulted in the killing of the King and the Queen, an<l Prince Michael was proclaimed King. The latter, however, was loath to give up his Paris ease, and Alec agreed to take his place and departed for Dd gratz in company with General Paul Stampoff, a rugged old adherent. He telegraphed to Lord Adal bert Beaumanoir, an English friend, to "come and jon the revel." Alec appeared before the National Assembly at Del gratz unexpectedly, and so enthused the members by his manly bearing that they at once proclaimed him King. Count Julius Maruhteh ami Constantine Beliani. ad herents of Prince Michael, chagrined over Alec's honor able course, as they had hoped to profit by his eleva tion, plotted to send Joan to Delgratz, believing that the king would marry her and thereby alienate the people because he had not married a Slav. [.■an accepted the offer of a thousand dollars and ex penses made by the plotters to "copy a painting" in Delgratz, and went there with Felix. Prince and Priiu ess Delgrado also went unexpectedly to Kos novia. the former in an effort to stop Alec's reforming activities. The Seventh Regiment, incensed by Alec's prosecu tion of the regicides, attempted to assassinate him: hut Felix saved the Kini; by rushing him into loan's apart ment, and StampotT's troops soon dispersed the m<'l>. Joan acknowledged her fondness for Alec to the lat ter's mother and was received with opt-n arms. confident air, " What new surprise are you two plotting? You ought to make a rare combination, — Alec with his democratic pose of taking the wide world into his confidence, and you, Beliani. burrowing underground like a mole whose existence is suspected only when one sees the outcome of his labors. '"Just what I was suggesting to his .Majesty." laughed Beliani, cursing Prince Michael under his breath for interfering at that moment. "I will say. though, from what I have managed to gleam of his projects, that the humble role you have been good enough to assign to me will be utterly out of place in his nobler schemes. Nevertheless, I" hope to make myself useful." "Something to do with money, of course?" guffawed the Prince. "It is the only commodity I really understand," was the suave answer. "That is why you refused me a loan a fortnight ago in Paris, I suppose?" "A loan"" interposed Alec. "Were you hard up father?" * *' "I have been telling you so without avail ever since my arrival here in'Delgratz," said the Prince bruskly. "Ah, you have been asking me to impose on an empty exchequer an annual payment that Kosnovia certainly cannot afford; but I certainly was not under the impression that you had found it necessary to apply to Monsieur Beliani for help. Why should such a step be necessary? 1 have always under stood —" "Oh we need not discuss the thing now " said I mice Michael offhandedly; for be dreaded' a too close inquiry into bis wife's financial resources in the presence of the Greek. Princess Delgrado was reputedly a rich woman, and her husband had ex plained his shortness of cash during recent Years by the convenient theory of monetary tightness in .America, whence, it was well understood, her income was derived. " I lave you seen your mother recently ? " he went on striving to appear at his ease. •• l "was looking for her half an hour ago. Some letters that reached me from Paris to-day ought to be answered by to-night post and I wish to consult her before dealing with them." 'Joan will know where she is. I expect" said Alec, but. seeing that Prince Michael did not avail himself ot Joan s presence to seek the desired infor mation he strolled over to the corner of the ,-,.,„„ where loan was chatting with Beaumanoir and one of the Serbian officers attached to the royal suite Do you know where my mother is ?" he asked >es, she said. "General Stan.pott took her for a drive nearly an hour ago. i offered to go with Siiaii;;::? 1- I'l-111-hS-toS "StampotT driving with my mother!" cried Alec with a laugh. I ,m ,st look into this. Stain,.,,:' is no lady s man as a rule. Now, what in the world does he want my mother to do for him?" QMUWIM.Y there must have been some quality y in the air of Delgrati that produced str ge happenings. Stamped could scarcely speak civilly 8 to a woman, ever since a faithless member of the fair sex brought about his downfall in Dtlgratz a decade earlier. Small wonder, then, that Alec should express surprise at such display of gallantry on his part! And. indeed, the unprecedented action of the graft old Serbian General in taking Princess Delgrado for a drive that evening was destined to have consequences not to be foreseen by any person, least of all by the young couple whose contemplated marriage was then in the mouths of all men. It was the Si step in the new march of events. StamporT meant to prove to the King's mother that her son would be ruined in the eyes of his people if he married a foreigner, ruined instantly and irretrievably, no matter how gracious and pleasing Joan rr-ight seem to be in their eyes, and, true to his military caste, he wasted no lime in making the Princess aware of his motive in seeking this tete-a-tete conversation. "I think I am right in assuming that you approve of the young American lady as your son's wife. ' said he when the carriage was clear of the paved streets and bowling smoothly along the south bank of the Danube on the only good driving road outside the city. ""The notion startled me at first. " confessed the Princess: "but the more I see of Joan the more I like her. Alec and she are devoted to each other. and I am sure she will be popular: for she is the type of woman who will take her position as (>ueen seriously." She is admirable in every respect." interrupted Stampoff: "but she surfers from one defect that out weighs all her virtues, — she is not a Serb." ** Koran I," said the Princess quickly : " yet no one seems to rind fault with the King on that ground." "One cannot judge the conditions that hold good to-day by those which existed twenty-rive years ago." said _ Stampoff gravely. "When" Prince Michael married you. madame. he was an exile: but Alexis is the reigning King, and he will offend his people mortally if he brings in a foreigner to share his throne." PRINCESS DELGRADO was bewildered by this sudden attack. She turned and scanned the old man's impressive features with feverish anxiety. "What do you mean?" she asked quickly. "Are you trying to enlist my aid in a campaign" against my son's chosen wife? If so, you will fail.Yieneral. lam weary to death of political intrigues and the never ceasing tactics of wire pullers. I have been surround ed by them all mv lite. and 1 thanked Providence in my heart when I saw that my son began his reign by sweeping aside the whole network of lies and artifice. He has not imposed himself on his people. He is here by their own tree will, and if they are ready to accept him so thoroughly they will surely not think of interfering in such a personal matter as hi>; marriage." But they are thinking of it." said Stamport doggedly. "That is why you are here now with n.o. I felt that I must warn you of the trouble ahead Alec. I admit, would be an ideal King in an ideal State: but he has failed absolutely to appreciate the racial prejudices that exist here. They are the growth of centuries. They cannot Be uprooted merely because a King is in love with an eminently deniable young woman. Among the ten millions of our people, Princess, there are hardly ten thousand who have any settled notions of government, whether qoi>d or bad. and those ten thousand think they have v prior right to control the destinies of the remainder of the nation. With the exception of a few oi the younger officers, there is not a man among the governing class who doesn't harbor more or less ot resentment against your son. He is putting down with a ruthless hand the petty corruption on Which they thrived, and at the same time reducing their recognized salaries. In season and out of season he preaches the duties oi good citizenship, but these men have too long been considering sell to yield without a struggle the positions attained under a less scrupulous regime. "I speak of what I know when 1 tell you that. placid and contented as DclgraU looks it is really a seething volcano of hate and discontent. Re pressed for the hour, kepi m check, perhaps, by the undoubted loyalty of the masses it is ready to Spout devastating tire and ashes at the least provocation, and that will be found in a marriage that seems to shut out all ho, « of realizing the 'long looked for touting ol Montenegro and Kosrtovia. I have a bitter acquaintance with our history madame and am persuaded that if Alec is to remain King he must abandon forever this notion of marrvinu an ••lieu, he I. reck Church would oppose it tooth and nail, and the people would soon follow the lead >.t their Popes, This young lad) appearance m Uelgratz has come at a singulartv inopportune moment. She was brought here by some one hostile to your son. If she came in obedience to .Alec 9 wish, he is his own worst enemy." T" l: distressed Princess could hardly falter a question in response to StampotY's' vehement outburst. Why do you tell me these things?"