another jerkwater little place as this is before he hit it. The government was down to its last bean and wondering where the Heck its next meal-ticket was coming from, when in blows Mr. Man, tucks up his shirt-sleeves, and starts the tables. And after that the place never looked back. You and your crowd gotta get together and pass a vote to give me a gambling concession here, same as they did him. Scobell’s my name. Hand him that, Crump.”

Mr. Crump obliged once more. A gleam of intelligence came into the President’s dull eye. He nodded once or twice. He talked volubly in French to Mr. Crump, who responded in the same tongue.

“The idea seems to strike him, sir,” said Mr. Crump.

“It ought to, if he isn’t a clam,” replied Mr. Scobell. He started to relight his cigar, but after scorching the tip of his nose, bowed to the inevitable and threw the relic away.

“See here,” he said, having bitten the end off the next in order; “I’ve thought this thing out from soup to nuts. There’s heaps of room for another Monte Carlo. Monte’s a dandy place, but it’s not perfect by a long way. To start with, it’s hilly. You have to take the elevator to get to the Casino, and when you’ve gotten to the end of your roll and want to soak your pearl pin, where’s the hock-shop? Half a mile away up the side of a mountain. It ain’t right. In my Casino there’s going to be a resident pawnbroker inside the building, just off the main entrance. That’s only one of a heap of improvements. Another is that my Casino’s scheduled to be a home from home, a place you can be real cosy in. You’ll look around you, and the only thing you’ll miss will be mother’s face. Yes, sir, there’s no need for a gambling Casino to look and feel and smell like the reading-room at the British Museum. Comfort, coziness and convenience. That’s the ticket I’m running on. Slip that to the old gink, Crump.”

A further outburst of the French language from Mr. Crump, supplemented on the part of the “old gink” by gesticulations, interrupted the proceedings.

“What’s he saying now?” asked Mr. Scobell.

“He wants to know—”

“Don’t tell. Let me guess. He wants to know what sort of a rake-off he and the other somnambulists will get— the darned old pirate! Is that it?”

Mr. Crump said that that was just it.

“That’ll be all right,” said Mr. Scobell. “Old man Blong’s offer to the Prince of Monaco was five hundred thousand francs a year—that’s somewhere around a hundred thousand dollars in real money—and half the profits made by the Casino. That’s my offer, too. See how that hits him, Crump.”

Mr. Crump investigated.

“He says he accepts gladly, on behalf of the Republic, sir,” he announced.

M. d’Orby confirmed the statement by rising, dodging the cigar, and kissing Mr. Scobell on both cheeks.

“Cut it out,” said the financier austerely, breaking out of the clinch. “We’ll take the Apache Dance as read. Good-by, Squire. Glad it’s settled. Now I can get busy.”

He did. Workmen poured into Mervo, and in a very short time, dominating the town and reducing to insignificance the palace of the late Prince, once a passably imposing mansion, there rose beside the harbor a mammoth Casino of shining stone.

Imposing as was the exterior, it was on the interior that Mr. Scobell more particularly prided himself, and not without reason. Certainly, a man with money to lose could lose it here under the most charming conditions. It had been Mr. Scobell’s object to avoid the cheerless grandeur of the rival institution down the coast. Instead of one large hall sprinkled with tables, each table had a room to itself, separated from its neighbor by sound-proof folding- doors. And as the building progressed, Mr. Scobell’s active mind had soared above the original idea of domestic coziness to far greater heights of ingenuity. Each of the rooms was furnished and arranged in a different style. The note of individuality extended even to the croupiers. Thus, a man with money at his command could wander from the Dutch room, where, in the picturesque surroundings of a Dutch kitchen, croupiers in the costume of Holland ministered to his needs, to the Japanese room, where his coin would be raked in by quite passable imitations of the Samurai. If he had any left at this point, he was free to dispose of it under the auspices of near-Hindoos in the Indian room, of merry Swiss peasants in the Swiss room, or in other appropriately furnished apartments of red-shirted, Bret Harte miners, fur-clad Esquimaux, or languorous Spaniards. He could then, if a man of spirit, who did not know when he was beaten, collect the family jewels, and proceed down the main hall, accompanied by the strains of an excellent band, to the office of a gentlemanly pawnbroker, who spoke seven languages like a native and was prepared to advance money on reasonable security in all of them.

It was a colossal venture, but it suffered from the defect from which most big things suffer; it moved slowly. That it also moved steadily was to some extent a consolation to Mr. Scobell. Undoubtedly it would progress quicker and quicker, as time went on, until at length the Casino became a permanent gold mine. But at present it was being conducted at a loss. It was inevitable, but it irked Mr. Scobell. He paced the island and brooded. His mind dwelt incessantly on the problem. Ideas for promoting the prosperity of his nursling came to him at all hours—at meals, in the night watches, when he was shaving, walking, washing, reading, brushing his hair.

And now one had come to him as he stood looking at the view from the window of his morning-room, listening absently to his sister Marion as she read stray items of interest from the columns of the New York Herald, and had caused him to utter the exclamation recorded at the beginning of the chapter.

“By Heck!” he said. “Read that again, Marion. I gottan idea.”

Miss Scobell, deep in her paper, paid no attention. Few people would have taken her for the sister of the financier. She was his exact opposite in almost every way. He was small, jerky and aggressive; she, tall, deliberate and negative. She was one of those women whom nature seems to have produced with the object of attaching them to some man in a peculiar position of independent dependence, and who defy the imagination to picture them in any other condition whatsoever. One could not see Miss Scobell doing anything but pour out her brother’s coffee, darn his socks, and sit placidly by while he talked. Yet it would have been untrue to describe her as dependent upon him. She had a detached mind. Though her whole life had been devoted to his comfort and though she admired him intensely, she never appeared to give his conversation any real attention. She listened to him much as she would have listened to a barking Pomeranian.

“Marion!” cried Mr. Scobell.

“A five-legged rabbit has been born in Carbondale, Southern Illinois,” she announced.

Mr. Scobell cursed the five-legged rabbit.

“Never mind about your rabbits. I want to hear that piece you read before. The one about the Prince of Monaco.

Вы читаете 15a The Prince and Betty
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