The Secret of the Silver Carскачать книгу бесплатно
"No. No," Hentzi cried nervously, "that is suicide. We have been satisfied to take six hours."
"With 'orses?" Alfred Anthony demanded, "pretty good time with 'orses, but this is a Lion."
Hentzi sat on the front seat during the long drive and pointed out the path. On the whole he was a good natured man but he did not permit the count's chauffeur to forget that he was talking to the count's secretary. Hentzi had formerly been a clerk in the estate office of the Temesvar family and had been promoted to his present position because he was faithful and a good linguist.
He was afraid of the count. Trent could detect a fear of him whenever the name was mentioned. When Hentzi warned the new chauffeur to be careful if his employer was in an angry mood the American demanded the reason.
"If I do my duty," said the pseudo mechanic, "he can't hurt me."
"You talk as a child talks," Hentzi laughed. "He will do as he likes and as the devils that are in him at the moment. He fears neither God, man, nor devil. Pauline only may mock when he rages."
"Who is Pauline?" Trent asked, "the missus?"
"The Countess," Hentzi said with dignity, "is in perpetual retreat with the Ursuline sisters near Vienna."
"Is Pauline the daughter?"
"His daughters are married." Hentzi laughed, "Castle Radna is not a place where it is wise to ask questions. You think because his excellency was cheerful when you last saw him he is like that always? I tell you if Pauline has been unkind he may visit it on you. I prefer that he does. I am tired of his humours and you are younger and stronger."
"You don't mean he might hit me?" Trent cried.
Hentzi seemed to find Trent's anxious manner amusing.
"Most certainly he will," the secretary assured him, "but you need not be alarmed. He will fling you gold when his temper has spent itself."
"I'm not going to let any man strike me," Trent said doggedly. "It would raise the devil in me and I might be sorry for it."
"You would," Hentzi said thinking that the chauffeur meant he might lose his job.
Anthony Trent, instead, was thinking that he might, in order to succeed in his venture, have to submit to indignities that would be torture to one of his temperament. It would not be wise to let the secretary know this so he turned the subject to the woman who dare laugh when the count was angry.
"Who is Pauline?" he asked.
"She was a skater from the Winter Palace in Berlin. She is beautiful or she would not be at Castle Radna; she is clever or she could not control Count Mich?l who has broken many women's hearts. She is bad or she would not have driven the countess from her home. For myself I hate her and the men and women with whom she fills the place."
"So they keep a lot of company up there?"
"Company!" Hentzi replied, "there is no such castle in Europe. I have seen life in Buda and Vienna but up there! You may be sure when the master drinks champagne the servants will drink shlivovitza.
But do not think they are all Pauline's friends. No. No. The great of the world come there too and Pauline's friends are banished. You will drive great personages up from Fiume and you will not know who they are or what their errand."
"Is the count a politician?"
Hentzi laughed with good natured contempt at such a na?ve query. Not to know Mich?l, Count Temesvar's reputation in the field of world politics was to admit ignorance of all the troubled currents which worried kings and presidents.
He was rudely brought back from his lofty attitude by the sudden stopping of the car. He was almost thrown from his seat.
"Look!" Trent cried, pointing to a piece of close cropped turf, "a golf green as I live."
"What of it?" Hentzi snapped, "what do you know of golf?"
"I used to be a caddie," Trent lied glibly. "Who plays there?"
"The count because his doctor tells him to. I because I hate it, and Pauline that her figure may remain seductive. Thank God there are but nine holes! It encourages our master to have one man who always plays worse than he. Look, that is the castle."
Almost under the shadows of Mount Sljeme the rugged building lay. Around it, nestling at its gates were many other lesser stone buildings which Hentzi told him were stables, dwellings and out-houses. It was situated in the Zagorje or land beyond the hills and had, despite its fine gardens and the green turf of the links a forbidding air.
When the Lion was run into its garage Hentzi introduced the new chauffeur to the man with whom he was to live, a man who with his wife had one of the cottages outside the castle wall. Peter Sissek, the man, was unfriendly from the start. He resented the importation of a chauffeur with the new car as a slight to his own skill. But as he spoke only Croatian and Hungarian, and Trent understood neither tongue, his grievances were not voluble.
Anthony Trent met Pauline in rather a curious way. He had been a week at Castle Radna and had not been commanded to drive the count. Then Hentzi had informed him Count Mich?l was sick of a bad cold. Sissek by virtue of being senior in the Temesvar service tried to get the new man to help him with his own cars but Trent absolutely declined.
He had assumed a certain post in order to carry out a design but his duties lay with the Lion car and he left the Croatian grumbling and set out for a tour of inspection. Naturally his steps led him to the little golf course a mile distant. There were no long holes and the course was hardly trapped at all. It was just the kind of place elderly men, who played a weak game, would revel in.
By the first tee was a little rustic pavilion. Through the windows Trent could see three or four golf bags. The temptation was too strong to resist. He picked the locks with the blade of a pocket knife and found himself in a comfortable room. The count's golf bag contained excellent clubs and plenty of balls. He looked at the balls and knew the count's game instantly. They were bitten into by the irons of a strong man. Trent shuddered at the gashes and then, selecting a new ball and a putter and driver went out on the nearby green. It was sheltered from all observation and he putted for a few minutes.
In the distance he could see the first green. It looked to be a little under three hundred yards distant; and it lay beneath, sweetly tempting to a long driver.
Anthony Trent had for some years now lived a life in which he denied himself nothing. He had reached out for such treasures as only a millionaire may buy. The question of right or wrong in the matter of using his employer's clubs bothered him little. He did not want to be observed in case the privilege were denied him.
He teed up his ball, made a few preliminary swings and then struck the white sphere with perfectly timed strength. He watched it rise, fall and roll almost to the edge of the green. He would certainly make it in three.
Then he turned round to look into the astonished face of a very beautiful woman. There was something in the general effect, quickly seen, which reminded him of Lady Daphne; but as he looked he saw this girl was older. He doubted the genuineness of the golden hair and he saw that art had aided nature in the facial make-up. But she was no more than eight and twenty and her figure differed from Daphne's slim, almost boyish slightness. She was dressed in a curious shade of green. It was a tint he thought he had never seen before until he looked into her eyes and saw it there reflected.
Pauline had known the count had engaged a chauffeur from London but she assumed him to be of the usual type. She had no idea that the man who had just made such a superb drive was he. Pauline had been used to much social enjoyment of a sort and while Count Mich?l had been away she had to behave circumspectly. She was dull and she was bored; and now, as though an answer to prayer, Fate had sent her a handsome young man who stood like a bronze statue as he followed the flight of the ball.
Since the count had given permission for the families of the neighbouring landowners to use his course she imagined it to be one of these or perhaps a guest at some local mansion.
Anthony Trent was never one who made a habit of the pursuit of the fair. His profession had taught him caution. Almost always the feminine element had brought the great criminals to peril. There had been one or two harmless flirtations but his love for Daphne was the great affair of his life. He groaned when he looked into Pauline's bold eyes and saw admiration looking from them. Other women had looked at him like that. Pauline was absolute at Castle Radna. Her enmity might be very harmful. Her friendship might be ruinous.
He assumed the bearing of Alfred Anthony which he had abandoned unconsciously. He even touched his cap to the lady as a servant who habitually wears livery should do. She frowned as he did so.
"Who are you?" she said in German.
"I'm the new chauffeur, miss," he returned in English.
"What are you doing here, then?"
"Having a bit of a game," he said with an air of timidity. "I hope you won't tell the guv'nor."
"The guv'nor?" she repeated.
"The count," he said, "the old toff with the beard."
Trent produced a Woodbine and lighted it luxuriously. He had all the quick nervous gestures of the cockney.
"Where did you learn to play golf like that?" she asked, looking at the white speck almost three hundred yards distant.
"Anyone can make a fluky drive," he said, "one drive doesn't make a golfer, Miss. I used to be a caddie at the Royal Surrey Club."
"Then you can carry my clubs," she said. She looked at him with a frown. "How is it the door is open?"
"Someone must have forgot to shut it," Trent said simply. "I just walked in."
All his excuses to get back to his garage were ineffectual.
"You will understand later," she said imperiously, "that if I order a servant to obey me he must do so. I wish you to teach me to play better golf. I shall pay you."
"I'll be glad to have a little extra money to send the mis'sus," said Trent cheerfully.
"That means you are married, eh?" she said.
"You've 'it it," he smiled.
He misjudged Pauline if he thought this would have any effect upon her. She was a specialist in husbands, an expert in emotional reactions.
Pauline played a very fair game. She had not been properly taught. But she was strong and lithe and although she had begun the game in order to keep her figure she played it now because she liked it. When she had performed professionally in London and big provincial cities she had seen that efficiency in some sport or another was de rigueur among women of importance and she hankered after the social recognition that unusual skill at sports often brought with it.
"Make another such drive," she commanded after she had driven only a hundred yards. "Not like mine, but like your first."
Trent having committed himself to a term of caddiedom at a great club where caddies have risen to the heights as professionals, he was not compelled to play a bad game. Pauline had never seen such golf and she worshipped bodily skill at games or sports more than any mental attainments. His short approaches amazed her. The skill with which at a hundred yards he could drop on a green and remain there with the back spin on the ball seemed miraculous.
"I shall play every day," she decided, "and you shall tell me how to become a great player."
"What about me and my motor?" he objected, "I came to drive a car and not a golf ball."
"I shall arrange it," she said, "Peter Sissek can drive."
"Not my car," he cried, "I'm not going to have no blooming mucker like him drive my Lion."
Her green eyes were narrowed when she looked at him.
"There are a hundred men who would give all they had for such an opportunity," she said slowly.
"Let 'em," he said quickly, "I'm a chauffeur and mechanic."
At the last hole she made a poor topped drive and the ball landed in a bad lie. It was an awkward stroke and he corrected her stance and even showed her how to grip the club when suddenly he was struck a tremendous blow on the back of the head. He was thrown off his balance but was up like a cat, dazed a little but anxious to see what had hit him. He thought it was a golf ball. It was Count Mich?l instead. He looked more like Francis the First than ever. His eyes were blazing with anger. He had stolen upon them unaware at a moment when Trent's hand was holding the white hand of Pauline as he tried to explain the grip.
The count was too angry to understand the look that Trent threw at him or to realize how nearly the pseudo-chauffeur lost control of himself. But Trent pulled himself together, dissembled his wrath, remembered his mission, and even presented a rueful but free from resentment appearance.
"'Ere guv'nor," he cried, "steady on! I 'aven't done anythink."
"It is you I blame," the count said to Pauline. He spoke in German and ignored Alfred Anthony. "Why is it unknown to me you bring my servant to play with you?"
Certainly Pauline had no fear of the magnate.
"Because he has been a professional caddie and plays so well I can learn the game. Since your game is contemptible with whom can I play here?"
"I beat Hentzi every time," stormed the Count.
"Hentzi," she laughed, "he is afraid of you. I am not. This man is useful. I have told him he is to carry my clubs when I play. Do you object to that?"
"By no means," the count said becoming more amiable. "I see no objection; but as he has two arms he can carry mine also. He is a beau gar?on Pauline and I do not permit his filthy fingers to touch the hand I kiss." He turned to Trent. "How is it you are here and not at your work?"
"I took a bit of a walk," Trent answered.
"And finding him near the pavilion I told him to carry my clubs," Pauline added in English. "What is strange in that?"
Sissek with a Fiat car was waiting by the pavilion. He had driven his master down and took Pauline back as well. He did not understand why the new man was carrying golf clubs. He brightened when the count spoke to him in rapid Croatian.
"I am telling him," the count said, "that there is plenty of work for you to do. He will find it if you cannot. And as Peter is very strong and as short tempered as his lord I bid you be careful."
Trent's temper was not sufficiently under control to keep a sneer from his face.
His grin was superbly insolent. He forgot his cockney accent and his acquired vocabulary.
"I'm afraid," he said, "you are not as good a judge of men as you are of women."
"What is this you say?" the count demanded frowning.
"I mean that if your fool-faced Peter there can make me do anything against my will he shall have my salary as well as his own. You came behind me when I wasn't looking and hit me. I can't resent that – yet, but warn him if he tries anything on me like that I'll – " He paused conscious of having said too much and aware that Pauline was gazing at him with vivid interest. "I'll make him sorry." Trent felt it was a weak ending.
"He is funny, this new chauffeur from London is he not Pauline?"
But Pauline had a mischievous idea. She spoke to Peter Sissek, that powerful and jealous servant, and he flashed a look of hatred at Trent. He thoroughly believed that the new man had indeed made the insulting remarks Pauline ascribed to him.
"Mich?l," said Pauline caressingly, "let us see what this bold man would do if Peter threatened him. We will not let Peter hurt him but it will be a lesson." Pauline knew men and she saw in Trent one who could not easily be forced to do anything.
Poor Peter Sissek urged by his master to avenge himself upon this hated alien rushed to his fate. In a way Trent was sorry. He had no real grievance against the man. But Peter was immensely strong and spurred on by a lively hatred. It was his idea to get his long arms about the slenderer man and throw him to the ground and there beat his sneering face in. He was stopped in his rush by a stinging left jab which caught him square on an eye. While he stood still in amazement another blow fell, this time on his nose.
The big man paused in angry amazement that one built so much more slenderly than he could hit with this terrific force. Pauline leaned forward her lips parted and the red flush of excitement victor over art's rouge. She was a woman of violent loves and hates and had urged many a love sick swain into unequal contest for amusement's sake. Although Trent had attracted her she was not sure that she did not want to see Sissek punish him. He had paid as little attention to her charms as though he thought she was old and ugly.
As she looked at the foreigner she noted that his face had changed. He looked keen, hawklike, dangerous. It would have been wiser for Anthony Trent had he allowed Peter Sissek to triumph.
Then, suddenly, Peter made a rush. He put down his bullet head and jumped at his man. Anthony Trent saw the opportunity for as pretty an upper-cut as one might need. For Peter Sissek it was the whole starry firmament in its splendor that showed itself, and then the night came down.
"He has killed Peter!" the count roared.
"That is not death," Pauline said clapping her hands.
For an uneasy moment the count remembered that not many minutes earlier he had buffetted this quiet, grim fighter, this same man who hit his opponent at will and evaded his enemy's blows with practised ease. These English speaking peoples with their odd notions of independence and their skill with their brutal fists were dangerous. It might well be that even he, Mich?l Temesvar had best remember his new chauffeur was not docile like Peter Sissek and the others.
"This is murder!" the count said still angrily.
"He'll come to," Trent said carelessly. "Shall I drive you back?"
"No," said the count. He looked coldly at the man who had charge of the Lion. But Trent knew very well that the anger in his face was not from any sympathy with Peter Sissek. It was the thought that Pauline had deceived him and that this young man was too skillful in too many ways that annoyed the aristocrat.
"I will send a car back," Count Mich?l asserted, "meanwhile stay with the man you have so cruelly assaulted."
Peter Sissek awoke to consciousness a few seconds later and looked with difficulty on the world. His nose was cut, an eye was closed and his car was gone. He made strange outcries and became so excited that Trent with a black look bade him be silent. Sissek knew what was meant and started at a run along the road.
Trent was not so sure he had done well that morning. He had angered the count. Well, such anger would probably pass under ordinary conditions. He had interested that magnificent animal Pauline, reigning favorite, and autocrat, and Pauline was not discreet. Sooner or later the count would see the way she looked at his chauffeur and then the game would be up. He would be sent back to London his mission a failure. To get Pauline's enmity would be fatal, too. She would not hesitate to ruin a man she hated and the count would always believe her word against that of Alfred Anthony. The American sat on the edge of the first tee and cursed all irregularly run establishments. He looked up presently to see the car returning. It was driven by Hentzi.
"What is this I hear?" Hentzi said severely.
"I don't give a damn what you have heard," Trent said crossly.
"What? You talk like this to me?"
"To you or anyone else," Trent retorted. "Look here, my little man, I came here to look after a high powered car and risk my neck on mountain passes. All right. I'm agreeable. But if you or anyone else thinks I'm a golf caddie or a footman or a servile beast like Sissek you're all mistaken. I'm a good mechanic and I can drive a car against almost anyone but I'm not going to stand for oppression. The count hit me." Anthony Trent patted himself on the chest as the enormity of the offence grew larger, "he hit me!"
"You talk as though you were a gentleman," Hentzi said coldly. "My friend you are of the people and you have read too much. You probably think you are my equal. It is an honor to serve a Temesvar but if you are anxious to go to your own country I have no doubt your company can send another man."
"There's no need for that," Trent said less irascibly, "but what makes Pauline think I'm going to carry her clubs around when I've got my own work to do?"
"So that was it," Hentzi commented. "That was why Count Mich?l stormed at me so. My good Alfred, you are young and life is sweet. I counsel you to remember that always while you are at Radna. The Temesvars have always been hot headed. You see that steep cliff yonder?"
Trent looked above him to where the side of a mountain was cut so sharply that a drop of four hundred feet would be the lot of one stepping from the edge.
"That has been the scene of many tragedies," Hentzi said, "many men have stepped into space."
"Murdered?" Trent demanded.
"Accidents," Hentzi assured him, "unfortunate accidents. There was one lamentable occurrence not many years ago and he was a fellow countryman of yours by the way. A man of great personal distinction. But these are not for you, these reminiscences of high life. What will interest you is that the count says you can no longer live with the Sisseks. He does not want two valuable servants to kill one another. Room will be made for you at the Castle. That pleases you, eh?"скачать книгу бесплатно
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