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“It is so good of you to come early,” said Mrs. Porter, as Alice Langham entered the drawing-room. “I want to ask a favor of you. I’m sure you won’t mind. I would ask one of the debutantes, except that they’re always so cross if one puts them next to men they don’t know and who can’t help them, and so I thought I’d just ask you, you’re so good-natured. You don’t mind, do you?”
Soldiers of Fortune PDF Book by Richard Harding Davis
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“I mind being called good-natured,” said Miss Langham, smiling. “Mind what, Mrs. Porter?” she asked. “He is a friend of George’s,” Mrs. Porter explained, vaguely. “He’s a cowboy. It seems he was very civil to George when he was out there shooting in New Mexico, or Old Mexico, I don’t remember which.
He took George to his hut and gave him things to shoot, and all that, and now he is in New York with a letter of introduction. It’s just like George. He may be a most impossible sort of man, but, as I said to Mr. Porter, the people I’ve asked can’t complain, because I don’t know anything more about him than they do. He called to-day when I was out and left his card and George’s letter of introduction.
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And as a man had failed me for to-night, I just thought I would kill two birds with one stone, and ask him to fill his place, and he’s here. And, oh, yes,” Mrs. Porter added, “I’m going to put him next to you, do you mind?” “Unless he wears leather leggings and long spurs I shall mind very much,” said Miss Langham. “Well, that’s very nice of you,” purred Mrs. Porter, as she moved away.
“He may not be so bad, after all; and I’ll put Reginald King on your other side, shall I?” she asked, pausing and glancing back. The look on Miss Langham’s face, which had been one of amusement, changed consciously, and she smiled with polite acquiescence. “As you please, Mrs. Porter,” she answered. She raised her eyebrows slightly.
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“I am, as the politicians say, ‘in the hands of my friends.'” “Entirely too much in the hands of my friends,” she repeated, as she turned away. This was the twelfth time during that same winter that she and Mr. King had been placed next to one another at dinner, and it had passed beyond the point when she could say that it did not matter what people thought as long as she and he understood.
It had now reached that stage when she was not quite sure that she understood either him or herself. They had known each other for a very long time; too long, she sometimes thought, for them ever to grow to know each other any better. But there was always the chance that he had another side, one that had not disclosed itself, and which she could not discover in the strict social environment in which they both lived.
And she was the surer of this because she had once seen him when he did not know that she was near, and he had been so different that it had puzzled her and made her wonder if she knew the real Reggie King at all. It was at a dance at a studio, and some French pantomimists gave a little play. Soldiers of Fortune PDF Book
When it was over, King sat in the corner talking to one of the Frenchwomen, and while he waited on her he was laughing at her and at her efforts to speak English. He was telling her how to say certain phrases and not telling her correctly, and she suspected this and was accusing him of it.
And they were rhapsodizing and exclaiming over certain delightful places and dishes of which they both knew in Paris with the enthusiasm of two children. Miss Langham saw him off his guard for the first time and instead of a somewhat bored and clever man of the world, he appeared as sincere and interested as a boy.
When he joined her, later, the same evening, he was as entertaining as usual, and as polite and attentive as he had been to the Frenchwoman, but he was not greatly interested, and his laugh was modulated and not spontaneous. She had wondered that night, and frequently since then, if, in the event of his asking her to marry him, which was possible, and of her accepting him. Soldiers of Fortune PDF Book
Which was also possible, whether she would find him, in the closer knowledge of married life, as keen and lighthearted with her as he had been with the French dancer. If he would but treat her more like a comrade and equal, and less like a prime minister conferring with his queen!
She wanted something more intimate than the deference that he showed her, and she did not like his taking it as an accepted fact that she was as worldly-wise as himself, even though it were true. She was a woman and wanted to be loved, in spite of the fact that she had been loved by many men—at least it was so supposed—and had rejected them.
“You are home early,” said Mr. Langham, as Alice stood above him pulling at her gloves. “I thought you said you were going on to some dance.” “I was tired,” his daughter answered. “Well, when I’m out,” commented Hope, “I won’t come home at eleven o’clock. Alice always was a quitter.” “A what?” asked the older sister. Soldiers of Fortune PDF Book
“Tell us what you had for dinner,” said Hope. “I know it isn’t nice to ask,” she added, hastily, “but I always like to know.” “I don’t remember,” Miss Langham answered, smiling at her father, “except that he was very much sunburned and had most perplexing eyes.” “Oh, of course,” assented Hope, “I suppose you mean by that that you talked with some man all through dinner.
Well, I think there is a time for everything.” “Father,” interrupted Miss Langham, “do you know many engineers—I mean do you come in contact with them through the railroads and mines you have an interest in? I am rather curious about them,” she said, lightly. “They seem to be a most picturesque lot of young men.”
“Engineers? Of course,” said Mr. Langham, vaguely, with the ten of spades held doubtfully in air. “Sometimes we have to depend upon them altogether. We decide from what the engineering experts tell us whether we will invest in a thing or not.” “I don’t think I mean the big men of the profession,” said his daughter, doubtfully. Soldiers of Fortune PDF Book
“I mean those who do the rough work. The men who dig the mines and lay out the railroads. Do you know any of them?” “Some of them,” said Mr. Langham, leaning back and shuffling the cards for a new game. “Why?” “Did you ever hear of a Mr. Robert Clay?” Mr. Langham smiled as he placed the cards one above the other in even rows.
“Very often,” he said. “He sails to-morrow to open up the largest iron deposits in South America. He goes for the Valencia Mining Company. Valencia is the capital of Olancho, one of those little republics down there.” “Do you—are you interested in that company?” asked Miss Langham, seating herself before the fire and holding out her hands toward it.
“Does Mr. Clay know that you are?” “Yes—I am interested in it,” Mr. Langham replied, studying the cards before him, “but I don’t think Clay knows it—nobody knows it yet, except the president and the other officers.” He lifted a card and put it down again in some indecision. “It’s generally supposed to be operated by a company, but all the stock is owned by one man. Soldiers of Fortune PDF Book
As a matter of fact, my dear children,” exclaimed Mr. Langham, as he placed a deuce of clubs upon a deuce of spades with a smile of content, “the Valencia Mining Company is your beloved father.” “Oh,” said Miss Langham, as she looked steadily into the fire. Hope tapped her lips gently with the back of her hand to hide the fact that she was sleepy, and nudged her father’s elbow.
“You shouldn’t have put the deuce there,” she said, “you should have used it to build with on the ace.” Clay looked out over the harbor at the lights of the town, and the General twirled his hat around his knee and gazed with appreciation at the stars above him. “Because if they are,” Clay continued.
“And they succeed in getting our share cut down from ninety per cent to fifty per cent, they must see that the stock would be worth just forty per cent less than it is now.” “That is true,” assented the other. “I have thought of that, and if the Senators in Opposition were given a chance to subscribe, I am sure they would see that it is better wisdom to drop their objections to the concession. Soldiers of Fortune PDF Book Download
And as stockholders allow you to keep ninety per cent of the output. And, again,” continued Mendoza, “it is really better for the country that the money should go to its people than that it should be stored up in the vaults of the treasury, when there is always the danger that the President will seize it; or, if not this one, the next one.”
“I should think—that is—it seems to me,” said Clay with careful consideration, “that your Excellency might be able to render us great help in this matter yourself. We need a friend among the Opposition. In fact—I see where you could assist us in many ways, where your services would be strictly in the line of your public duty and yet benefit us very much.
Of course I cannot speak authoritatively without first consulting Mr. Langham; but I should think he would allow you personally to purchase as large a block of the stock as you could wish, either to keep yourself or to resell and distribute among those of your friends in Opposition where it would do the most good.” Soldiers of Fortune PDF Book Download
Clay looked over inquiringly to where Mendoza sat in the light of the open door, and the General smiled faintly, and emitted a pleased little sigh of relief. “Indeed,” continued Clay, “I should think Mr. Langham might even save you the formality of purchasing the stock outright by sending you its money equivalent.
I beg your pardon,” he asked, interrupting himself, “does your orderly understand English?” “He does not,” the General assured him, eagerly, dragging his chair a little closer. “Suppose now that Mr. Langham were to put fifty or let us say sixty thousand dollars to your account in the Valencia Bank, do you think this vote of want of confidence in the Government on the question of our concession would still be moved?”
“I am sure it would not,” exclaimed the leader of the Opposition, nodding his head violently. “Sixty thousand dollars,” repeated Clay, slowly, “for yourself; and do you think, General, that were you paid that sum you would be able to call off your friends, or would they make a demand for stock also?” Soldiers of Fortune PDF Book Download
He was alone with his family now in one carriage, and the other men and the servants were before them in two others. It seemed an interminable ride to them all—to the strangers, and to the men who were anxious that they should be pleased. They left the city at last, and toiled along the limestone road to the Palms, rocking from side to side and sinking in ruts filled with rushing water.
When they opened the flap of the hood the rain beat in on them, and when they closed it they stewed in a damp, warm atmosphere of wet leather and horse-hair. “This is worse than a Turkish bath,” said Hope, faintly. “Don’t you live anywhere, Ted?” “Oh, it’s not far now,” said the younger brother, dismally.
But even as he spoke the carriage lurched forward and plunged to one side and came to a halt, and they could hear the streams rushing past the wheels like the water at the bow of a boat. A wet, black face appeared at the opening of the hood, and a man spoke despondently in Spanish. “He says we’re stuck in the mud,” explained Langham. Soldiers of Fortune PDF Book Download
He looked at them so beseechingly and so pitifully, with the perspiration streaming down his face, and his clothes damp and bedraggled, that Hope leaned back and laughed, and his father patted him on the knee. “It can’t be any worse,” he said, cheerfully; “it must mend now. It is not your fault, Ted, that we’re starving and lost in the mud.”
Langham looked out to find Clay and MacWilliams knee-deep in the running water, with their shoulders against the muddy wheels, and the driver lashing at the horses and dragging at their bridles. He sprang out to their assistance, and Hope, shaking off her sister’s detaining hands, jumped out after him, laughing.
She splashed up the hill to the horses’ heads, motioning to the driver to release his hold on their bridles. Clay and Miss Langham were quite alone. From the high cliff on which the Palms stood they could look down the narrow inlet that joined the ocean and see the moonlight turning the water into a rippling ladder of light and gilding the dark green leaves of the palms near them with a border of silver. Soldiers of Fortune PDF Book Free
Directly below them lay the waters of the bay, reflecting the red and green lights of the ships at anchor, and beyond them again were the yellow lights of the town, rising one above the other as the city crept up the hill. And back of all were the mountains, grim and mysterious, with white clouds sleeping in their huge valleys, like masses of fog.
Except for the ceaseless murmur of the insect life about them the night was absolutely still—so still that the striking of the ships’ bells in the harbor came to them sharply across the surface of the water, and they could hear from time to time the splash of some great fish and the steady creaking of an oar in a rowlock that grew fainter and fainter as it grew further away, until it was drowned in the distance.
Miss Langham was for a long time silent. She stood with her hands clasped behind her, gazing from side to side into the moonlight, and had apparently forgotten that Clay was present. Soldiers of Fortune PDF Book Free