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The Kings of the East: A Romance of the Near Future

Sydney C. Grier

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
It was a brilliant afternoon in late spring, and Vindobona was taking its pleasure joyously out of doors, as is its wont. The many parks and gardens of the city were crowded with holiday-makers in every variety of national costume and speaking the tongues of all the earth, and in the boulevards of the Ringstrasse a well-dressed throng made the pavements almost impassable. There was not a vacant seat to be found at the rows of tables outside each café, where strange and wonderful liquids were being consumed in vast quantities, but with a deliberation that implied the possession of unlimited leisure. No one seemed to have anything to do but to walk and talk, salute his acquaintances and criticise the rest of the world, pause for a while to refresh the inner man and then saunter on again, and this was indeed the case. The true citizen of Vindobona always has time for holiday-making, whatever other duties he may neglect, and those who make a study of his weaknesses calculate confidently upon this amiable peculiarity. This saint’s day afternoon, for instance, there were gathered, in a room on the second floor of one of the palatial mansions in the Opera Ring, four men, whose meeting had been facilitated by the absorption of the populace in its pleasures. One by one they had made their way to the appointed spot, the private office of the great financier Israel Goldberg, and here, where a business-like severity strove with a certain barbaric splendour in the appointments, they had refreshed themselves with fruit sherbets and perfumed Eastern tobacco before turning their attention to the matter upon which they had come together. Some signing of papers and a good deal of low-toned conversation followed, until at last the host leaned back in his chair and threw down his pen.