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A Man of Means - The Diverting Episode of the Exiled Monarch

1. The Episode of the Landlady's Daughter

2. The Episode of the Financial Napoleon

3. The Episode of the Theatrical Venture

4. The Episode of the Live Weekly

5. The Diverting Episode of the Exiled Monarch

6. The Episode of the Hired Past


Fifth of a Series of Six Stories
[First published in _Pictorial Review_, September 1916]

The caoutchouc was drawing all London. Slightly more indecent than the
Salome dance, a shade less reticent than ragtime, it had driven the
tango out of existence. Nor, indeed, did anybody actually caoutchouc,
for the national dance of Paranoya contained three hundred and fifteen
recognized steps; but everybody tried to. A new revue, "Hullo,
Caoutchouc," had been produced with success. And the pioneer of the
dance, the peerless Maraquita, a native Paranoyan, still performed it
nightly at the music-hall where she had first broken loose.

The caoutchouc fascinated Roland Bleke. Maraquita fascinated him more.
Of all the women to whom he had lost his heart at first sight,
Maraquita had made the firmest impression upon him. She was what is
sometimes called a fine woman.

She had large, flashing eyes, the physique of a Rugby International
forward, and the agility of a cat on hot bricks.

There is a period of about fifty steps somewhere in the middle of the
three hundred and fifteen where the patient, abandoning the comparative
decorum of the earlier movements, whizzes about till she looks like a
salmon-colored whirlwind.

That was the bit that hit Roland.

Night after night he sat in his stage-box, goggling at Maraquita and
applauding wildly.

One night an attendant came to his box.

"Excuse me, sir, but are you Mr. Roland Bleke? The Senorita Maraquita
wishes to speak to you."

He held open the door of the box. The possibility of refusal did not
appear to occur to him. Behind the scenes at that theater, it was
generally recognized that when the Peerless One wanted a thing, she got

They were alone.

With no protective footlights between himself and her, Roland came to
the conclusion that he had made a mistake. It was not that she was any
less beautiful at the very close quarters imposed by the limits of the
dressing-room; but he felt that in falling in love with her he had
undertaken a contract a little too large for one of his quiet,
diffident nature. It crossed his mind that the sort of woman he really
liked was the rather small, drooping type. Dynamite would not have made
Maraquita droop.

For perhaps a minute and a half Maraquita fixed her compelling eyes on
his without uttering a word. Then she broke a painful silence with this
leading question:

"You love me, _hein_?"

Roland nodded feebly.

"When men make love to me, I send them away--so."

She waved her hand toward the door, and Roland began to feel almost
cheerful again. He was to be dismissed with a caution, after all. The
woman had a fine, forgiving nature.

"But not you."

"Not me?"

"No, not you. You are the man I have been waiting for. I read about you
in the paper, Senor Bleke. I see your picture in the 'Daily Mirror!' I
say to myself, 'What a man!'"

"Those picture-paper photographs always make one look rather weird,"
mumbled Roland.

"I see you night after night in your box. Poof! I love you."

"Thanks awfully," bleated Roland.

"You would do anything for my sake, _hein_? I knew you were that kind
of man directly I see you. No," she added, as Roland writhed uneasily
in his chair, "do not embrace me. Later, yes, but now, no. Not till the
Great Day."

What the Great Day might be Roland could not even faintly conjecture.
He could only hope that it would also be a remote one.

"And now," said the Senorita, throwing a cloak about her shoulders,
"you come away with me to my house. My friends are there awaiting us.
They will be glad and proud to meet you."

* * * * *

After his first inspection of the house and the friends, Roland came to
the conclusion that he preferred Maraquita's room to her company. The
former was large and airy, the latter, with one exception, small and

The exception Maraquita addressed as Bombito. He was a conspicuous
figure. He was one of those out-size, hasty-looking men. One suspected
him of carrying lethal weapons.

Maraquita presented Roland to the company. The native speech of
Paranoya sounded like shorthand, with a blend of Spanish. An expert
could evidently squeeze a good deal of it into a minute. Its effect on
the company was good. They were manifestly soothed. Even Bombito.

Introductions in detail then took place. This time, for Roland's
benefit, Maraquita spoke in English, and he learned that most of those
present were marquises. Before him, so he gathered from Maraquita,
stood the very flower of Paranoya's aristocracy, driven from their
native land by the Infamy of 1905. Roland was too polite to inquire
what on earth the Infamy of 1905 might be, but its mention had a marked
effect on the company. Some scowled, others uttered deep-throated
oaths. Bombito did both. Before supper, to which they presently sat
down, was over, however, Roland knew a good deal about Paranoya and its
history. The conversation conducted by Maraquita--to a ceaseless _bouche
pleine_ accompaniment from her friends--bore exclusively upon the

Paranoya had, it appeared, existed fairly peacefully for centuries
under the rule of the Alejandro dynasty. Then, in the reign of
Alejandro the Thirteenth, disaffection had begun to spread, culminating
in the Infamy of 1905, which, Roland had at last discovered, was
nothing less than the abolition of the monarchy and the installation of
a republic.

Since 1905 the one thing for which they had lived, besides the
caoutchouc, was to see the monarchy restored and their beloved
Alejandro the Thirteenth back on his throne. Their efforts toward this
end had been untiring, and were at last showing signs of bearing fruit.
Paranoya, Maraquita assured Roland, was honeycombed with intrigue. The
army was disaffected, the people anxious for a return to the old order
of things.

A more propitious moment for striking the decisive blow was never
likely to arrive. The question was purely one of funds.

At the mention of the word "funds," Roland, who had become thoroughly
bored with the lecture on Paranoyan history, sat up and took notice. He
had an instinctive feeling that he was about to be called upon for a
subscription to the cause of the distressful country's freedom.
Especially by Bombito.

He was right. A moment later Maraquita began to make a speech.

She spoke in Paranoyan, and Roland could not follow her, but he
gathered that it somehow had reference to himself.

As, at the end of it, the entire company rose to their feet and
extended their glasses toward him with a mighty shout, he assumed that
Maraquita had been proposing his health.

"They say 'To the liberator of Paranoya!'" kindly translated the
Peerless One. "You must excuse," said Maraquita tolerantly, as a bevy
of patriots surrounded Roland and kissed him on the cheek. "They are so
grateful to the savior of our country. I myself would kiss you, were it
not that I have sworn that no man's lips shall touch mine till the
royal standard floats once more above the palace of Paranoya. But that
will be soon, very soon," she went on. "With you on our side we can not

What did the woman mean? Roland asked himself wildly. Did she labor
under the distressing delusion that he proposed to shed his blood on
behalf of a deposed monarch to whom he had never been introduced?

Maraquita's next remarks made the matter clear.

"I have told them," she said, "that you love me, that you are willing
to risk everything for my sake. I have promised them that you, the rich
Senor Bleke, will supply the funds for the revolution. Once more,
comrades. To the Savior of Paranoya!"

Roland tried his hardest to catch the infection of this patriotic
enthusiasm, but somehow he could not do it. Base, sordid, mercenary
speculations would intrude themselves. About how much was a good,
well-furnished revolution likely to cost? As delicately as he could,
he put the question to Maraquita.

She said, "Poof! The cost? La, la!" Which was all very well, but hardly
satisfactory as a business chat. However, that was all Roland could get
out of her.

* * * * *

The next few days passed for Roland in a sort of dream. It was the kind
of dream which it is not easy to distinguish from a nightmare.

Maraquita's reticence at the supper-party on the subject of details
connected with the financial side of revolutions entirely disappeared.
She now talked nothing but figures, and from the confused mass which
she presented to him Roland was able to gather that, in financing the
restoration of royalty in Paranoya, he would indeed be risking
everything for her sake.

In the matter of revolutions Maraquita was no niggard. She knew how the
thing should be done--well, or not at all. There would be so much for
rifles, machine-guns, and what not: and there would be so much for the
expense of smuggling them into the country. Then there would be so much
to be laid out in corrupting the republican army. Roland brightened a
little when they came to this item. As the standing army of Paranoya
amounted to twenty thousand men, and as it seemed possible to corrupt
it thoroughly at a cost of about thirty shillings a head, the obvious
course, to Roland's way of thinking was to concentrate on this side of
the question and avoid unnecessary bloodshed.

It appeared, however, that Maraquita did not want to avoid bloodshed,
that she rather liked bloodshed, that the leaders of the revolution
would be disappointed if there were no bloodshed. Especially Bombito.
Unless, she pointed out, there was a certain amount of carnage,
looting, and so on, the revolution would not achieve a popular success.
True, the beloved Alejandro might be restored; but he would sit upon a
throne that was insecure, unless the coronation festivities took a
bloodthirsty turn. By all means, said Maraquita, corrupt the army, but
not at the risk of making the affair tame and unpopular. Paranoya was
an emotional country, and liked its revolutions with a bit of zip to

It was about ten days after he had definitely cast in his lot with the
revolutionary party that Roland was made aware that these things were a
little more complex than he had imagined. He had reconciled himself to
the financial outlay. It had been difficult, but he had done it. That
his person as well as his purse would be placed in peril he had not

The fact was borne in upon him at the end of the second week by the
arrival of the deputation.

It blew in from the street just as he was enjoying his after-dinner

It consisted of three men, one long and suave, the other two short,
stout, and silent. They all had the sallow complexion and undue
hairiness which he had come by this time to associate with the native
of Paranoya.

For a moment he mistook them for a drove of exiled noblemen whom he had
not had the pleasure of meeting at the supper-party; and he waited
resignedly for them to make night hideous with the royal anthem. He
poised himself on his toes, the more readily to spring aside if they
should try to kiss him on the cheek.

"Mr. Bleke?" said the long man.

His companions drifted toward the cigar-box which stood open on the
table, and looked at it wistfully.

"Long live the monarchy," said Roland wearily. He had gathered in the
course of his dealings with the exiled ones that this remark generally
went well.

On the present occasion it elicited no outburst of cheering. On the
contrary, the long man frowned, and his two companions helped
themselves to a handful of cigars apiece with a marked moodiness.

"Death to the monarchy," corrected the long man coldly. "And," he added
with a wealth of meaning in his voice, "to all who meddle in the
affairs of our beloved country and seek to do it harm."

"I don't know what you mean," said Roland.

"Yes, Senor Bleke, you do know what I mean. I mean that you will be
well advised to abandon the schemes which you are hatching with the
malcontents who would do my beloved land an injury."

The conversation was growing awkward. Roland had got so into the habit
of taking it for granted that every Paranoyan he met must of necessity
be a devotee of the beloved Alejandro that it came as a shock to him to
realize that there were those who objected to his restoration to the
throne. Till now he had looked on the enemy as something in the
abstract. It had not struck him that the people for whose correction he
was buying all these rifles and machine-guns were individuals with a
lively distaste for having their blood shed.

"Senor Bleke," resumed the speaker, frowning at one of his companions
whose hand was hovering above the bottle of liqueur brandy, "you are a
man of sense. You know what is safe and what is not safe. Believe me,
this scheme of yours is not safe. You have been led away, but there is
still time to withdraw. Do so, and all is well. Do not so, and your
blood be upon your own head."

"My blood!" gasped Roland.

The speaker bowed.

"That is all," he said. "We merely came to give the warning. Ah, Senor
Bleke, do not be rash. You think that here, in this great London of
yours, you are safe. You look at the policeman upon the corner of the
road, and you say to yourself 'I am safe.' Believe me, not at all so is
it, but much the opposite. We have ways by which it is of no account
the policeman on the corner of the road. That is all, Senor Bleke. We
wish you a good night."

The deputation withdrew.

Maraquita, informed of the incident, snapped her fingers, and said
"Poof!" It sometimes struck Roland that she would be more real help in
a difficult situation if she could get out of the habit of saying

"It is nothing," she said.

"No?" said Roland.

"We easily out-trick them, isn't it? You make a will leaving your money
to the Cause, and then where are they, _hein_?"

It was one way of looking at it, but it brought little balm to Roland.
He said so. Maraquita scanned his face keenly.

"You are not weakening, Rolan?" she said. "You would not betray us

"Well, of course, I don't know about betraying, you know, but still----.
What I mean is----"

Maraquita's eyes seemed to shoot forth two flames.

"Take care," she cried. "With me it is nothing, for I know that your
heart is with Paranoya. But, if the others once had cause to suspect
that your resolve was failing--ah! If Bombito----"

Roland took her point. He had forgotten Bombito for the moment.

"For goodness' sake," he said hastily, "don't go saying anything to
Bombito to give him the idea that I'm trying to back out. Of course you
can rely on me, and all that. That's all right."

Maraquita's gaze softened. She raised her glass--they were lunching at
the time--and put it to her lips.

"To the Savior of Paranoya!" she said.

"Beware!" whispered a voice in Roland's ear.

He turned with a start. A waiter was standing behind him, a small,
dark, hairy man. He was looking into the middle distance with the
abstracted air which waiters cultivate.

Roland stared at him, but he did not move.

That evening, returning to his flat, Roland was paralyzed by the sight
of the word "Beware" scrawled across the mirror in his bedroom. It had
apparently been done with a diamond. He rang the bell.

"Sir?" said the competent valet. ("Competent valets are in attendance
at each of these flats."--_Advt._)

"Has any one been here since I left?"

"Yes, sir. A foreign-looking gentleman called. He said he knew you,
sir. I showed him into your room."

The same night, well on in the small hours, the telephone rang. Roland
dragged himself out of bed.


"Is that Senor Bleke?"

"Yes. What is it?"


Things were becoming intolerable. Roland had a certain amount of nerve,
but not enough to enable him to bear up against this sinister
persecution. Yet what could he do? Suppose he did beware to the extent
of withdrawing his support from the royalist movement, what then?
Bombito. If ever there was a toad under the harrow, he was that toad.
And all because a perfectly respectful admiration for the caoutchouc
had led him to occupy a stage-box several nights in succession at the
theater where the peerless Maraquita tied herself into knots.

* * * * *

There was an air of unusual excitement in Maraquita's manner at their
next meeting.

"We have been in communication with Him," she whispered. "He will
receive you. He will give an audience to the Savior of Paranoya."

"Eh? Who will?"

"Our beloved Alejandro. He wishes to see his faithful servant. We are
to go to him at once."


"At his own house. He will receive you in person."

Such was the quality of the emotions through which he had been passing
of late, that Roland felt but a faint interest at the prospect of
meeting face to face a genuine--if exiled--monarch. The thought did
flit through his mind that they would sit up a bit in old Fineberg's
office if they could hear of it, but it brought him little consolation.

The cab drew up at a gloomy-looking house in a fashionable square.
Roland rang the door-bell. There seemed a certain element of the
prosaic in the action. He wondered what he should say to the butler.

There was, however, no need for words. The door opened, and they were
ushered in without parley. A butler and two footmen showed them into a
luxuriously furnished anteroom. Roland entered with two thoughts
running in his mind. The first was that the beloved Alejandro had got
an uncommonly snug crib; the second that this was exactly like going to
see the dentist.

Presently the squad of retainers returned, the butler leading.

"His Majesty will receive Mr. Bleke."

Roland followed him with tottering knees.

His Majesty, King Alejandro the Thirteenth, on the retired list, was a
genial-looking man of middle age, comfortably stout about the middle
and a little bald as to the forehead. He might have been a prosperous
stock-broker. Roland felt more at his ease at the very sight of him.

"Sit down, Mr. Bleke," said His Majesty, as the door closed. "I have
been wanting to see you for some time."

Roland had nothing to say. He was regaining his composure, but he had a
long way to go yet before he could feel thoroughly at home.

King Alejandro produced a cigaret-case, and offered it to Roland, who
shook his head speechlessly. The King lit a cigaret and smoked
thoughtfully for a while.

"You know, Mr. Bleke," he said at last, "this must stop. It really
must. I mean your devoted efforts on my behalf."

Roland gaped at him.

"You are a very young man. I had expected to see some one much older.
Your youth gives me the impression that you have gone into this affair
from a spirit of adventure. I can assure you that you have nothing to
gain commercially by interfering with my late kingdom. I hope, before
we part, that I can persuade you to abandon your idea of financing this
movement to restore me to the throne.

"I don't understand--er--your majesty."

"I will explain. Please treat what I shall say as strictly confidential.
You must know, Mr. Bleke, that these attempts to re-establish me as a
reigning monarch in Paranoya are, frankly, the curse of an otherwise
very pleasant existence. You look surprized? My dear sir, do you know
Paranoya? Have you ever been there? Have you the remotest idea what sort
of life a King of Paranoya leads? I have tried it, and I can assure
you that a coal-heaver is happy by comparison. In the first place,
the climate of the country is abominable. I always had a cold in the
head. Secondly, there is a small but energetic section of the populace
whose sole recreation it seems to be to use their monarch as a target
for bombs. They are not very good bombs, it is true, but one in, say,
ten explodes, and even an occasional bomb is unpleasant if you are the

"Finally, I am much too fond of your delightful country to wish to
leave it. I was educated in England--I am a Magdalene College man--and
I have the greatest horror of ever being compelled to leave it. My
present life suits me exactly. That is all I wished to say, Mr. Bleke.
For both our sakes, for the sake of my comfort and your purse, abandon
this scheme of yours."

* * * * *

Roland walked home thoughtfully. Maraquita had left the royal residence
long before he had finished the whisky-and-soda which the genial
monarch had pressed upon him. As he walked, the futility of his
situation came home to him more and more. Whatever he did, he was bound
to displease somebody; and these Paranoyans were so confoundedly
impulsive when they were vexed.

For two days he avoided Maraquita. On the third, with something of the
instinct which draws the murderer to the spot where he has buried the
body, he called at her house.

She was not present, but otherwise there was a full gathering. There
were the marquises; there were the counts; there was Bombito.

He looked unhappily round the crowd.

Somebody gave him a glass of champagne. He raised it.

"To the revolution," he said mechanically.

There was a silence--it seemed to Roland an awkward silence. As if he
had said something improper, the marquises and counts began to drift
from the room, till only Bombito was left. Roland regarded him with
some apprehension. He was looking larger and more unusual than ever.

But to-night, apparently, Bombito was in genial mood. He came forward
and slapped Roland on the shoulder. And then the remarkable fact came
to light that Bombito spoke English, or a sort of English.

"My old chap," he said. "I would have a speech with you."

He slapped Roland again on the shoulder.

"The others they say, 'Break it with Senor Bleke gently.' Maraquita say
'Break it with Senor Bleke gently.' So I break it with you gently."

He dealt Roland a third stupendous punch. Whatever was to be broken
gently, it was plain to Roland that it was not himself. And suddenly
there came to him a sort of intuition that told him that Bombito was

"After all you have done for us, Senor Bleke, we shall seem to you
ungrateful bounders, but what is it? Yes? No? I shouldn't wonder,
perhaps. The whole fact is that there has been political crisis in
Paranoya. Upset. Apple-cart. Yes? You follow? No? The Ministry have
been--what do you say?--put through it. Expelled. Broken up. No more
ministry. New ministry wanted. To conciliate royalist party, that is
the cry. So deputation of leading persons, mighty good chaps, prominent
merchants and that sort of bounder, call upon us. They offer me to be
President. See? No? Yes? That's right. I am ambitious blighter, Senor
Bleke. What about it, no? I accept. I am new President of Paranoya. So
no need for your kind assistance. Royalist revolution up the spout. No
more royalist revolution."

The wave of relief which swept over Roland ebbed sufficiently after an
interval to enable him to think of some one but himself. He was not
fond of Maraquita, but he had a tender heart, and this, he felt, would
kill the poor girl.

"But Maraquita----?"

"That's all right, splendid old chap. No need to worry about Maraquita,
stout old boy. Where the husband goes, so does the wife go. As you say,
whither thou goes will I follow. No?"

"But I don't understand. Maraquita is not your wife?"

"Why, certainly, good old heart. What else?"

"Have you been married to her all the time?"

"Why, certainly, good, dear boy."

The room swam before Roland's eyes. There was no room in his mind for
meditations on the perfidy of woman. He groped forward and found
Bombito's hand.

"By Jove," he said thickly, as he wrung it again and again, "I knew you
were a good sort the first time I saw you. Have a drink or something.
Have a cigar or something. Have something, anyway, and sit down and
tell me all about it."

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