The Lighted Match (Chapter 10, page 2 of 8)

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Chapter 10

In all the life and color compassed between the four walls of Moorish
tiles and arches, Benton felt the magnet of the group irresistibly
drawing his eyes to itself.

"And this gathering about a table for a cup of coffee, in Cadiz--what of
it?" argued Benton. He tried to speak as if his curiosity were dilute
and his thoughts west of the Atlantic. "Are they not all known here?"

Again Blanco gave the expressive Spanish shrug.

"Few people here know any of them. I only said, Señor, that if any
chance should cause Galavia to mourn her new King that same chance would
elevate the tall, pale gentleman from a café table to a throne. I did
not say that the chance would occur."

"And yet?" urged Benton, his eyes narrowing, "your words seem to hint
more than they express. What is it, Manuel?"

The Spaniard took a handful of matches from a porcelain receptacle on
the table. He laid one down.

"Let that match," he smilingly suggested, "stand for the circumstance of
the Grand Duke leaving Paris for Cadiz which is--well, nearer to
Puntal--and less observant than Paris." He laid another on the marble
table-top with its sulphur head close to the first, so that the two
radiated from a common center like spokes from a hub. "Regard that as a
coincidence of the arrival of the Count Borttorff from the other
direction, but at the same time, and at the precise season of the
coronation and marriage of the King." He looked at the two matches, then
successively laid down others, all with the heads at the common center.
"That," he said, "is the joining of the group by the distinguished
Frenchman--that the presence of the English Jackal--that is the chance
that runs against any King or Queen of meeting death. That--" he struck
another match and held it a moment burning in his fingers "--regard
that, Señor, as the flaring up of ambitions that are thwarted by a
life or two."

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