A Chicago Princess - Robert Barr - ebook
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„The Chicago Princess” is a historical novel with a romantic line, written by Robert Barr. Robert Barr (1849-1912) was a British-Canadian short story writer and novelist, who published the first Holmes parody, „The Adventures of Sherlaw Kombs” in 1892. A novel „The Chicago Princess” first published in 1904. After working several years in foreign affairs, and after winning and then losing a fortune, Rupert Tremorne is stranded in Nagasaki, at the end of his wits and in some debt. His only chance is to take the post as private secretary to the Millionaire Mr. Hemster, and to sail on with him on his yacht. Sailing around Asia is big adventure for anyone, but it is a special one for Tremorne, because besides Mr. Hemster and his staff, there are the beautiful Miss Gertrude Hemster and her companion Hilda Stretton on board. And suddenly, Tremorne has his hands full with those two ladies.

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Liczba stron: 396

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER I

When I look back upon a certain hour of my life it fills me with wonder that I should have been so peacefully happy. Strange as it may seem, utter despair is not without its alloy of joy. The man who daintily picks his way along a muddy street is anxious lest he soil his polished boots, or turns up his coat collar to save himself from the shower that is beginning, eager then to find a shelter; but let him inadvertently step into a pool, plunging head over ears into foul water, and after that he has no more anxiety. Nothing that weather can inflict will add to his misery, and consequently a ray of happiness illumines his gloomy horizon. He has reached the limit; Fate can do no more; and there is a satisfaction in attaining the ultimate of things. So it was with me that beautiful day; I had attained my last phase.

I was living in the cheapest of all paper houses, living as the Japanese themselves do, on a handful of rice, and learning by experience how very little it requires to keep body and soul together. But now, when I had my next meal of rice, it would be at the expense of my Japanese host, who was already beginning to suspect,–so it seemed to me,–that I might be unable to liquidate whatever debt I incurred. He was very polite about it, but in his twinkling little eyes there lurked suspicion. I have travelled the whole world over, especially the East, and I find it the same everywhere. When a man comes down to his final penny, some subtle change in his deportment seems to make the whole world aware of it. But then, again, this supposed knowledge on the part of the world may have existed only in my own imagination, as the Christian Scientists tell us every ill resides in the mind. Perhaps, after all, my little bowing landlord was not troubling himself about the payment of the bill, and I only fancied him uneasy.

If an untravelled person, a lover of beauty, were sitting in my place on that little elevated veranda, it is possible the superb view spread out before him might account for serenity in circumstances which to the ordinary individual would be most depressing. But the view was an old companion of mine; goodness knows I had looked at it often enough when I climbed that weary hill and gazed upon the town below me, and the magnificent harbor of Nagasaki spreading beyond. The water was intensely blue, dotted with shipping of all nations, from the stately men-of-war to the ocean tramps and the little coasting schooners. It was an ever-changing, animated scene; but really I had had enough of it during all those ineffective months of struggle in the attempt to earn even the rice and the poor lodging which I enjoyed.

Curiously, it was not of this harbor I was thinking, but of another in far-distant Europe, that of Boulogne in the north of France, where I spent a day with my own yacht before I sailed for America. And it was a comical thought that brought the harbor of Boulogne to my mind. I had seen a street car there, labelled “Le Dernier Sou,” which I translated as meaning “The Last Cent.” I never took a trip on this street car, but I presume somewhere in the outskirts of Boulogne there is a suburb named “The Last Cent,” and I thought now with a laugh: “Here I am in Japan, and although I did not take that street car, yet I have arrived at ‘Le Dernier Sou.’”

This morning I had not gone down to the harbor to prosecute my search for employment. As with my last cent, I had apparently given that idea up. There was no employer needing men to whom I had not applied time and again, willing to take the laborer’s wage for the laborer’s work. But all my earlier training had been by way of making me a gentleman, and the manner was still upon me in spite of my endeavors to shake it off, and I had discovered that business men do not wish gentlemen as day-laborers. There was every reason that I should be deeply depressed; yet, strange to say, I was not. Had I at last reached the lotus-eating content of the vagabond? Was this care-free condition the serenity of the tramp? Would my next step downward be the unblushing begging of food, with the confidence that if I were refused at one place I should receive at another? With later knowledge, looking back at that moment of mitigated happiness, I am forced to believe that it was the effect of coming events casting their shadows before. Some occultists tell us that every action that takes place on the earth, no matter how secretly done, leaves its impression on some ethereal atmosphere, visible to a clairvoyant, who can see and describe to us exactly what has taken place. If this be true, it is possible that our future experiences may give sub-mental warnings of their approach.

As I sat there in the warm sunlight and looked over the crowded harbor, I thought of the phrase, “When my ship comes in.” There was shipping enough in the bay, and possibly, if I could but have known where, some friend of mine might at that moment be tramping a white deck, or sitting in a steamer chair, looking up at terrace upon terrace of the toy houses among which I kept my residence. Perhaps my ship had come in already if only I knew which were she. As I lay back on the light bamboo chair, along which I had thrown myself,–a lounging, easy, half-reclining affair like those we used to have at college,–I gazed upon the lower town and harbor, taking in the vast blue surface of the bay; and there along the indigo expanse of the waters, in striking contrast to them, floated a brilliantly white ship gradually, imperceptibly approaching. The canvas, spread wing and wing, as it increased in size, gave it the appearance of a swan swimming toward me, and I thought lazily:

“It is like a dove coming to tell me that my deluge of misery is past, and there is an olive-branch of foam in its beak.”

As the whole ship became visible I saw that it, like the canvas, was pure white, and at first I took it for a large sailing yacht rapidly making Nagasaki before the gentle breeze that was blowing; but as she drew near I saw that she was a steamer, whose trim lines, despite her size, were somewhat unusual in these waters. If this were indeed a yacht she must be owned by some man of great wealth, for she undoubtedly cost a fortune to build and a very large income to maintain. As she approached the more crowded part of the bay, her sails were lowered and she came slowly in on her own momentum. I fancied I heard the rattle of the chain as her anchor plunged into the water, and now I noticed with a thrill that made me sit up in my lounging chair that the flag which flew at her stern was the Stars and Stripes. It is true that I had little cause to be grateful to the country which this piece of bunting represented, for had it not looted me of all I possessed? Nevertheless in those distant regions an Englishman regards the United States flag somewhat differently from that of any nation save his own. Perhaps there is an unconscious feeling of kinship; perhaps the similarity of language may account for it, because an Englishman understands American better than any other foreign tongue. Be that as it may, the listlessness departed from me as I gazed upon that banner, as crude and gaudy as our own, displaying the most striking of the primary colors. The yacht rested on the blue waters as gracefully as if she were a large white waterfowl, and I saw the sampans swarm around her like a fluffy brood of ducklings.

And now I became conscious that the most polite individual in the world was making an effort to secure my attention, yet striving to accomplish his purpose in the most unobtrusive way. My patient and respected landlord, Yansan, was making deep obeisances before me, and he held in his hand a roll which I strongly suspected to be my overdue bill. I had the merit in Yansan’s eyes of being able to converse with him in his own language, and the further advantage to myself of being able to read it; therefore he bestowed upon me a respect which he did not accord to all Europeans.

“Ah, Yansan!” I cried to him, taking the bull by the horns, “I was just thinking of you. I wish you would be more prompt in presenting your account. By such delay errors creep into it which I am unable to correct.”

Yansan awarded me three bows, each lower than the one preceding it, and, while bending his back, endeavored, though with some confusion, to conceal the roll in his wide sleeve. Yansan was possessed of much shrewdness, and the bill certainly was a long standing one.

“Your Excellency,” he began, “confers too much honor on the dirt beneath your feet by mentioning the trivial sum that is owing. Nevertheless, since it is your Excellency’s command, I shall at once retire and prepare the document for you.”

“Oh, don’t trouble about that, Yansan,” I said, “just pull it out of your sleeve and let me look over it.”

The wrinkled face screwed itself up into a grimace more like that of a monkey than usual, and so, with various genuflections, Yansan withdrew the roll and proffered it to me. Therein, in Japanese characters, was set down the long array of my numerous debts to him. Now, in whatever part of the world a man wishes to delay the payment of a bill, the proper course is to dispute one or more of its items, and this accordingly I proceeded to do.

“I grieve to see, Yansan,” I began, putting my finger on the dishonest hieroglyphic, “that on the fourth day you have set down against me a repast of rice, whereas you very well know on that occasion I did myself the honor to descend into the town and lunch with his Excellency the Governor.”

Again Yansan lowered his ensign three times, then deplored the error into which he had fallen, saying it would be immediately rectified.

“There need to be no undue hurry about the rectification,” I replied, “for when it comes to a settlement I shall not be particular about the price of a plate of rice.”

Yansan was evidently much gratified to hear this, but I could see that my long delay in liquidating his account was making it increasingly difficult for him to subdue his anxiety. The fear of monetary loss was struggling with his native politeness. Then he used the formula which is correct the world over.

“Excellency, I am a poor man, and next week have heavy payments to make to a creditor who will put me in prison if I produce not the money.”

“Very well,” said I grandly, waving my hand toward the crowded harbor, “my ship has come in where you see the white against the blue. To-morrow you shall be paid.”

Yansan looked eagerly in the direction of my gesture.

“She is English,” he said.

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