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A Man of Mark by Anthony Hope

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"I shall be in my rooms in the afternoon. If anything goes wrong, send
your carriage down the street and have it stopped at the grocer's. I
shall take that for a sign."

The signorina agreed, and we parted tenderly. My last words were:

"You'll send that message to Whittingham at once?"

"This moment," she said, as she waved me a kiss from the door of the
room.

CHAPTER XIII.

I WORK UPON HUMAN NATURE.

I was evidently in for another day as unpleasantly exciting as the one
I had spent before the revolution, and I reflected sadly that if a man
once goes in for things of that kind, it's none so easy to pull up.
Luckily, however, I had several things to occupy me, and was not left
to fret the day away in idleness. First I turned my steps to the
harbor. As I went I examined my pockets and found a sum total of $950.
This was my all, for of late I had deemed it wise to carry my fortune
on my person. Well, this was enough for the present; the future must
take care of itself. So I thought to myself as I went along with a
light heart, my triumph in love easily outweighing all the troubles
and dangers that beset me. Only land me safe out of Aureataland with
the signorina by my side, and I asked nothing more of fortune! Let the
dead bury their dead, and the bank look after its dollars!

Thus musing, I came to the boat-house where my launch lay. She was a
tidy little boat, and had the advantage of being workable by one man
without any difficulty. All I had to arrange was how to embark in her
unperceived. I summoned the boatman in charge, and questioned him
closely about the probable state of the weather. He confidently
assured me it would be fine but dark.

"Very well," said I, "I shall go fishing; start overnight, and have a
shy at them at sunrise."

The man was rather astonished at my unwonted energy, but of course
made no objection.

"What time shall you start, sir?" he asked.

"I want her ready by two," said I.

"Do you want me to go with you, sir?"

I pretended to consider, and then told him, to his obvious relief,
that I could dispense with his services.

"Leave her at the end of your jetty," I said, "ready for me. She'll be
all safe there, won't she?"

"Oh, yes, sir. Nobody'll be about, except the sentries, and they won't
touch her."

I privately hoped that not even the sentries would be about, but I
didn't say so.

"Of course, sir, I shall lock the gate. You've got your key?"

"Yes, all right, and here you are--and much obliged for your trouble."

Highly astonished and grateful at receiving a large tip for no obvious
reason (rather a mistake on my part), the man was profuse in promising
to make every arrangement for my comfort. Even when I asked for a few
cushions, he dissembled his scorn and agreed to put them in.

"And mind you don't sit up," I said as I left him.

"I'm not likely to sit up if I'm not obliged," he answered. "Hope
you'll have good sport, sir."

From the harbor I made my way straight to the Golden House. The
colonel was rather surprised to see me again so soon, but when I
told him I came on business, he put his occupations on one side and
listened to me.

I began with some anxiety, for if he suspected my good faith all would
be lost. However, I was always a good hand at a lie, and the colonel
was not the President.

"I've come about that money question," I said.

"Well, have you come to your senses?" he asked, with his habitual
rudeness.

"I can't give you the money--" I went on.

"The devil you can't!" he broke in. "You sit there and tell me that?
Do you know that if the soldiers don't have money in a few hours,
they'll upset me? They're ready to do it any minute. By Jove! I don't
know now, when I give an order, whether I shall be obeyed or get a
bullet through my head."

"Pray be calm!" said I. "You didn't let me finish."

"Let you finish!" he cried. "You seem to think jabber does everything.
The end of it all is, that either you give me the money or I take
it--and if you interfere, look out!"

"That was just what I was going to propose, if you hadn't interrupted
me," I said quietly, but with inward exultation, for I saw he was just
in the state of mind to walk eagerly into the trap I was preparing for
him.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

I explained to him that it was impossible for me to give up the money.
My reputation was at stake; it was my duty to die in defense of that
money--a duty which, I hastened to add, I entertained no intention of
performing.

"But," I went on, "although I am bound not to surrender the money,
I am not bound to anticipate a forcible seizure of it. In times of
disturbance parties of ruffians often turn to plunder. Not even the
most rigorous precautions can guard against it. Now, it would be very
possible that even to-night a band of such maurauders might make an
attack on the bank, and carry off all the money in the safe."

"Oh!" said the colonel, "that's the game, is it?"

"That," I replied, "is the game; and a very neat game too, if you'll
play it properly."

"And what will they say in Europe, when they hear the Provisional
Government is looting private property?"

"My dear colonel, you force me to much explanation. You will, of
course, not appear in the matter."

"I should like to be there," he remarked. "If I weren't, the men
mightn't catch the exact drift of the thing."

"You will be there, of course, but _incognito_. Look here, colonel,
it's as plain as two peas. Give out that you're going to reconnoiter
the coast and keep an eye on _The Songstress_. Draw off your companies
from the Piazza on that pretense. Then take fifteen or twenty men you
can trust--not more, for it's no use taking more than you can help,
and resistance is out of the question. About two, when everything is
quiet, surround the bank. Jones will open when you knock. Don't hurt
him, but take him outside and keep him quiet. Go in and take the
money. Here's the key of the safe. Then, if you like, set fire to the
place."

"Bravo, my boy!" said the colonel. "There's stuff in you after all.
Upon my word, I was afraid you were going to turn virtuous."

I laughed as wickedly as I could.

"And what are you going to get out of it?" he said. "I suppose that's
coming next?"

As the reader knows, I wasn't going to get anything out of it, except
myself and the signorina. But it wouldn't do to tell the colonel that;
he would not believe in disinterested conduct. So I bargained with
him for a _douceur_ of thirty thousand dollars, which he promised so
readily that I strongly doubted whether he ever meant to pay it.

"Do you think there's any danger of Whittingham making an attack while
we're engaged in the job?"

The colonel was, in common parlance, getting rather _warmer_ than I
liked.

It was necessary to mislead him.

"I don't think so," I replied. "He can't possibly have organized much
of a party here yet. There's some discontent, no doubt, but not enough
for him to rely on."

"There's plenty of discontent," said the colonel.

"There won't be in a couple of hours."

"Why not?"

"Why, because you're going down to the barracks to announce a fresh
installment of pay to the troops to-morrow morning--a handsome
installment."

"Yes," said he thoughtfully, "that ought to keep them quiet for one
night. Fact is, they don't care twopence either for me or Whittingham;
and if they think they'll get more out of me they'll stick to me."

Of course I assented. Indeed, it was true enough as long as the
President was not on the spot; but I thought privately that the
colonel did not allow enough for his rival's personal influence and
prestige, if he once got face to face with the troops.

"Yes," the colonel went on, "I'll do that; and what's more, I'll put
the people in good humor by sending down orders for free drink in the
Piazza to-night."

"Delightfully old-fashioned and baronial," I remarked, "I think it's
a good idea. Have a bonfire, and make it complete. I don't suppose
Whittingham dreams of any attempt, but it will make the riot even more
plausible."

"At any rate, they'll all be too drunk to make trouble," said he.

"Well, that's about all, isn't it?" said I. "I shall be off. I've got
to write to my directors and ask instructions for the investment of
the money."

"You'll live to be hanged, Martin," said the colonel, with evident
admiration.

"Not by you, eh, colonel? Whatever might have happened if I'd been
obstinate! Hope I shall survive to dance at your wedding, anyhow. Less
than a week now!"

"Yes," said he, "it's Sunday (though, by Jove! I'd forgotten it), and
next Saturday's the day!"

He really looked quite the happy bridegroom as he said this, and I
left him to contemplate his bliss.

"I would bet ten to one that day never comes," I thought, as I walked
away. "Even if I don't win, I'll back the President to be back before
that."

The colonel's greed had triumphed over his wits, and he had fallen
into my snare with greater readiness than I could have hoped. The
question remained, What would the president do when he got the
signorina's letter? It may conduce to a better understanding of the
position if I tell what that letter was. She gave it me to read over,
after we had compiled it together, and I still have my copy. It ran as
follows:

"I can hardly hope you will trust me again, but if I betrayed you, you
drove me to it. I have given them your money; it is in the bank now.
M. refuses to give it up, and the C. means to take it to-night. He
will have only a few men, the rest not near. He will be at the bank
at two, with about twenty men. Take your own measures. All here favor
you. He threatens me violence unless I marry him at once. He watches
_The Songstress_, but if you can leave her at anchor and land in a
boat there will be no suspicion. I swear this is true; do not punish
me more by disbelieving me. I make no protest. But if you come back
to me I will give you, in return for pardon, _anything you ask_!

"CHRISTINA.

"P.S.---M. and the C. are on bad terms, and M. will not be active
against you."

Upon the whole I thought this would bring him. I doubted whether he
would believe very much in it, but it looked probable (indeed, it was
word for word true, as far as it went), and held out a bait that he
would find it hard to resist. Again, he was so fond of a bold stroke,
and so devoid of fear, that it was very likely he could come and see
if it were true. If, as we suspected, he already had a considerable
body of adherents on shore, he could land and reconnoiter without very
great danger of falling into the colonel's hands. Finally, even if
he didn't come, we hoped the letter would be enough to divert his
attention from any thought of fugitive boats and runaway lovers. I
could have made the terms of it even more alluring, but the signorina,
with that extraordinarily distorted morality distinctive of her sex,
refused to swear to anything literally untrue in a letter which was
itself from beginning to end a monumental falsehood; though not a
student of ethics, she was keenly alive to the distinction between
the _expressio falsi_ and the _suppressio veri_. The only passage she
doubted about was the last, "If you come back to me." "But then he
won't come back _to me_ if I'm not there!" she exclaimed triumphantly.
What happened to him after he landed--whether he cooked the colonel's
goose or the colonel cooked his--I really could not afford to
consider. As a matter of personal preference, I should have liked the
former, but I did not allow any such considerations to influence my
conduct. My only hope was that the killing would take long enough to
leave time for our unobtrusive exit. At the same time, as a matter of
betting, I would have laid long odds against McGregor.

To my mind it is nearly as difficult to be consistently selfish as to
be absolutely unselfish. I had, at this crisis, every inducement to
concentrate all my efforts on myself, but I could not get Jones out of
my head. It was certainly improbable that Jones would try to resist
the marauding party; but neither the colonel nor his chosen band were
likely to be scrupulous, and it was impossible not to see that Jones
might get a bullet through his head; indeed, I fancied such a step
would rather commend itself to the colonel, as giving a _bona
fide_ look to the affair. Jones had often been a cause of great
inconvenience to me, but I didn't wish to have his death on my
conscience, so I was very glad when I happened to meet him on my way
back from the Golden House, and seized the opportunity of giving him a
friendly hint.

I took him and set him down beside me on a bench in the Piazza.

I was in no way disturbed by the curious glances of three soldiers who
were evidently charged to keep an eye on the bank and my dealings with
it.

I began by pledging Jones to absolute secrecy, and then I intimated
to him, in a roundabout way, that the colonel and I were both very
apprehensive of an attack on the bank.

"The town," I said, "is in a most unsettled condition, and many
dangerous characters are about. Under these circumstances I have felt
compelled to leave the defense of our property in the hands of the
Government. I have formally intimated to the authorities that we
shall hold them responsible for any loss occasioned to us by public
disorder. The colonel, in the name of the Government, has accepted
that responsibility. I therefore desire to tell you, Mr. Jones, that,
in the lamentable event of any attack on the bank, it will not be
expected of you to expose your life by resistance. Such a sacrifice
would be both uncalled for and useless; and I must instruct you that
the Government insists that their measures shall not be put in danger
of frustration by any rash conduct on our part. I am unable to be at
the bank this evening; but in the event of any trouble you will oblige
me by not attempting to meet force by force. You will yield, and we
shall rely on our remedy against the Government in case of loss."

These instructions so fully agreed with the natural bent of
Jones' mind that he readily acquiesced in them and expressed high
appreciation of my foresight.

"Take care of yourself and Mrs. Jones, my dear fellow," I concluded;
"that is all you have to do, and I shall be satisfied."

I parted from him affectionately, wondering if my path in life would
ever cross the honest, stupid old fellow's again, and heartily hoping
that his fortune would soon take him out of the rogue's nest in which
he had been dwelling.

CHAPTER XIV.

FAREWELL TO AUREATALAND.

The night came on, fair and still, clear and star-lit; but there was
no moon and, outside the immediate neighborhood of the main streets,
the darkness was enough to favor our hope of escaping notice without
being so intense as to embarrass our footsteps. Everything, in fact,
seemed to be on our side, and I was full of buoyant confidence as I
drank a last solitary glass to the success of our enterprise, put my
revolver in my pocket, and, on the stroke of midnight, stole from my
lodgings. I looked up toward the bank and dimly descried three or four
motionless figures, whom I took to be sentries guarding the treasure.
The street itself was almost deserted, but from where I stood I could
see the Piazza crowded with a throng of people whose shouts and songs
told me that the colonel's hospitality was being fully appreciated.
There was dancing going on to the strains of the military band, and
every sign showed that our good citizens intended, in familiar phrase,
to make a night of it.

I walked swiftly and silently down to the jetty. Yes, the boat was all
right! I looked to her fires, and left her moored by one rope ready
to be launched into the calm black sea in an instant. Then I strolled
along by the harbor side. Here I met a couple of sentries. Innocently
I entered into conversation with them, condoling on their hard fate
in being kept on duty while pleasure was at the helm in the Piazza.
Gently deprecating such excess of caution, I pointed out to them the
stationary lights of _The Songstress_ four or five miles out to sea,
and with a respectful smile at the colonel's uneasiness, left the seed
I had sown to grow in prepared soil. I dared do no more, and had to
trust for the rest to their natural inclination to the neglect of
duty.

When I got back to the bottom of Liberty Street, I ensconced myself in
the shelter of a little group of trees which stood at one side of
the roadway. Just across the road, which ran at right angles to the
street, the wood began, and a quarter of an hour's walk through its
shades would bring us to the jetty where the boat lay. My trees made
a perfect screen, and here I stood awaiting events. For some time
nothing was audible but an ever-increasing tumult of joviality from
the Piazza. But after about twenty minutes I awoke to the fact that a
constant dribble of men, singly or in pairs, had begun to flow past me
from the Piazza, down Liberty Street, across the road behind me, and
into the wood. Some were in uniform, others dressed in common clothes;
one or two I recognized as members of Johnny Carr's missing band.
The strong contrast between the prevailing revelry and the stealthy,
cautious air of these passers-by would alone have suggested that they
were bent on business; putting two and two together I had not the
least doubt that they were the President's adherents making their way
down to the water's edge to receive their chief. So he was coming; the
letter had done its work! Some fifty or more must have come and gone
before the stream ceased, and I reflected, with great satisfaction,
that the colonel was likely to have his hands very full in the next
hour or two.

Half an hour or so passed uneventfully; the bonfire still blazed;
the songs and dancing were still in full swing. I was close upon the
fearful hour of two, when, looking from my hiding-place, I saw a
slight figure in black coming quickly and fearfully along the road.

I recognized the signorina at once, as I should recognize her any day
among a thousand; and, as she paused nearly opposite where I was, I
gently called her name and showed myself for a moment. She ran to me
at once.

"Is it all right?" she asked breathlessly.

"We shall see in a moment," said I. "The attack is coming off; it will
begin directly."

But the attack was not the next thing we saw. We had both retreated
again to the friendly shadow whence we could see without being seen.
Hardly had we settled ourselves than the signorina whispered to me,
pointing across the road to the wood:

"What's that, Jack?"

I followed the line of her finger and made out a row of figures
standing motionless and still on the very edge of the wood. It was too
dark to distinguish individuals; but, even as we looked, the silent
air wafted to our eager ears a low-voiced word of command:

"Mind, not a sound till I give the word."

"The President!" exclaimed the signorina, in a loud whisper.

"Hush, or he'll hear," said I, "and we're done."

Clearly nothing would happen from that quarter till it was called
forth by events in the opposite direction. The signorina was strongly
agitated; she clung to me closely, and I saw with alarm that the very
proximity of the man she stood in such awe of was too much for her
composure. When I had soothed, and I fear half-frightened, her into
stillness, I again turned my eyes toward the Piazza. The fire had at
last flickered out and the revels seemed on the wane. Suddenly a body
of men appeared in close order, marching down the street toward the
bank. We stood perhaps a hundred yards from that building, which was,
in its turn, about two hundred from the Piazza. Steadily they came
along; no sound reached us from the wood.

"This is getting interesting," I said. "There'll be trouble soon."

As near as I could see, the colonel's band, for such it was, no doubt,
did not number more than five-and-twenty at the outside. Now they were
at the bank. I could hardly see what happened, but there seemed to be
a moment's pause; probably someone had knocked and they were waiting.
A second later a loud shout rang through the street and I saw a group
of figures crowding round the door and pushing a way into my poor
bank.

"The gods preserve Jones!" I whispered. "I hope the old fool won't try
to stop them."

As I spoke, I heard a short, sharp order from behind, "Now! Charge!"

As the word was given another body of fifty or more rushed by us full
tilt, and at their head we saw the President, sword in hand, running
like a young man and beckoning his men on. Up the street they swept.
Involuntarily we waited a moment to watch them. Just as they came near
the bank they sent up a shout:

"The President! the President! Death to traitors!"

Then there was a volley, and they closed round the building.

"Now for our turn, Christina," said I.

She grasped my arm tightly, and we sped across the road and into the
wood. It seemed darker than when I came through before, or perhaps my
eyes were dazzled by the glare of the street lamps. But still we got
along pretty well, I helping my companion with all my power.

"Can we do it?" she gasped.

"Please God," said I; "a clear quarter of an hour will do it, and they
ought to take that to finish off the colonel." For I had little doubt
of the issue of that _melee_.

On we sped, and already we could see the twinkle of the waves through
the thinning trees. Five hundred yards more, and there lay life and
liberty and love!

Well, of course, I might have known. Everything had gone so smoothly
up to now, that any student of the laws of chance could have foretold
that fortune was only delaying the inevitable slap in the face. A plan
that seemed wild and risky had proved in the result as effectual
as the wisest scheme. By a natural principle of compensation, the
simplest obstacle was to bring us to grief. "There's many a slip,"
says the proverb. Very likely! One was enough for our business.
For just as we neared the edge of the wood, just as our eyes were
gladdened by the full sight of the sea across the intervening patch of
bare land, the signorina gave a cry of pain and, in spite of my arm,
fell heavily to the ground. In a moment I was on my knees by her side.
An old root growing out of the ground! That was all! And there lay my
dear girl white and still.

"What is it, sweet?" I whispered.

"My ankle!" she murmured; "O Jack, it hurts so!" and with that she
fainted.

Half an hour--thirty mortal (but seemingly immortal) minutes I knelt
by her side ministering to her. I bound up the poor foot, gave her
brandy from my flask. I fanned her face with my handkerchief. In a
few minutes she came to, but only, poor child, to sob with her bitter
pain. Move she could not, and would not. Again and again she entreated
me to go and leave her. At last I persuaded her to try and bear the
agony of being carried in my arms the rest of the way. I raised her as
gently as I could, wrung to the heart by her gallantly stifled groan,
and slowly and painfully I made my way, thus burdened, to the edge of
the wood. There were no sentries in sight, and with a new spasm of
hope I crossed the open land and neared the little wicket gate that
led to the jetty. A sharp turn came just before we reached it, and, as
I rounded this with the signorina lying yet in my arms, I saw a horse
and a man standing by the gate. The horse was flecked with foam and
had been ridden furiously. The man was calm and cool. Of course he
was! It was the President!

My hands were full with my burden, and before I could do anything, I
saw the muzzle of his revolver pointed full--At me? Oh, no! At the
signorina!

"If you move a step I shoot her through the heart, Martin," he said,
in the quietest voice imaginable.

The signorina looked up as she heard his voice.

"Put me down, Jack! It's no use," she said; "I knew how it would be."

I did not put her down, but I stood there helpless, rooted to the
ground.

"What's the matter with her?" he said.

"Fell and sprained her ankle," I replied.

"Come, Martin," said he, "it's no go, and you know it. A near thing;
but you've just lost."

"Are you going to stop us?" I said.

"Of course I am," said he.

"Let me put her down, and we'll have a fair fight."

He shook his head.

"All very well for young men," he said. "At my age, if a man holds
trumps he keeps them."

"How long have you been here?"

"About two minutes. When I didn't see you at the bank I thought
something was up, so I galloped on to her house. No one there! So I
came on here. A good shot, eh?"

The fall had done it. But for that we should have been safe.

"Well?" he said.

In the bitterness of my heart I could hardly speak. But I was not
going to play either the cur or the fool, so I said:

"Your trick, sir, and therefore your lead! I must do what you tell
me."

"Honor bright, Martin?"

"Yes," said I; "I give you my word. Take the revolver if you like,"
and I nodded my head to the pocket where it lay.

"No," he said, "I trust you."

"I bar a rescue," said I.

"There will be no rescue," said he grimly.

"If the colonel comes--"

"The colonel won't come," he said. "Whose house is that?"

It was my boatman's.

"Bring her there. Poor child, she suffers!"

We knocked up the boatman, who thus did not get his night's rest after
all. His astonishment may be imagined.

"Have you a bed?" said the President.

"Yes," he stammered, recognizing his interlocutor.

"Then carry her up, Martin; and you, send your wife to her."

I took her up, and laid her gently on the bed. The President followed
me. Then we went downstairs again into the little parlor.

"Let us have a talk," he said; and he added to the man, "Give us some
brandy, quick, and then go."

He was obeyed, and we were left alone with the dim light of a single
candle.

The President sat down and began to smoke. He offered me a cigar and
I took it, but he said nothing. I was surprised at his leisurely,
abstracted air. Apparently he had nothing in the world to do but sit
and keep me company.

"If your Excellency," said I, instinctively giving him his old title,
"has business elsewhere you can leave me safely. I shall not break my
word."

"I know that--I know that," he answered. "But I'd rather stay here; I
want to have a talk."

"But aren't there some things to settle up in the town?"

"The doctor's doing all that," he said. "You see, there's no danger
now. There's no one left to lead them against me."

"Then the colonel is--"

"Yes," he said gravely, "he is dead. I shot him."

"In the attack?"

"Not exactly; the fighting was over. A very short affair, Martin. They
never had a chance; and as soon as two or three had fallen and the
rest saw me, they threw up the sponge."

"And the colonel?"

"He fought well. He killed two of my fellows; then a lot of them flung
themselves on him and disarmed him."

"And you killed him in cold blood?"

The President smiled slightly.

"Six men fell in that affair--five besides the colonel. Does it strike
you that you, in fact, killed the five to enable you to run away with
the girl you loved?"

It hadn't struck me in that light, but it was quite irrelevant.

"But for your scheme I should have come back without a blow," he
continued; "but then I should have shot McGregor just the same."

"Because he led the revolt?"

"Because," said the President, "he has been a traitor from the
beginning even to the end--because he tried to rob me of all I held
dear in the world. If you like," he added, with a shrug, "because he
stood between me and my will. So I went up to him and told him his
hour was come, and I shot him through the head. He died like a man,
Martin; I will say that."

I could not pretend to regret the dead man. Indeed, I had been
near doing the same deed myself. But I shrank before this calm
ruthlessness.

Another long pause followed. Then the President said:

"I am sorry for all this, Martin--sorry you and I came to blows."

"You played me false about the money," I said bitterly.

"Yes, yes," he answered gently; "I don't blame you. You were bound to
me by no ties. Of course you saw my plan?"

"I supposed your Excellency meant to keep the money and throw me
over."

"Not altogether," he said. "Of course I was bound to have the money.
But it was the other thing, you know. As far as the money went I would
have taken care you came to no harm."

"What was it, then?"

"I thought you understood all along," he said, with some surprise. "I
saw you were my rival with Christina, and my game was to drive you out
of the country by making the place too hot for you."

"She told me you didn't suspect about me and her till quite the end."

"Did she?" he answered, with a smile. "I must be getting clever to
deceive two such wide-awake, young people. Of course I saw it all
along. But you had more grit than I thought. I've never been so nearly
done by any man as by you."

"But for luck you would have been," said I.

"Yes, but I count luck as one of my resources," he replied.

"Well, what are you going to do now?"

He took no notice, but went on.

"You played too high. It was all or nothing with you, just as it is
with me. But for that we could have stood together. I'm sorry, Martin;
I like you, you know."

For the life of me I had never been able to help liking him.

"But likings mustn't interfere with duty," he went on, smiling. "What
claim have you at my hands?"

"Decent burial, I suppose," I answered.

He got up and paced the room for a moment or two. I waited with some
anxiety, for life is worth something to a young man, even when things
look blackest, and I never was a hero.

"I make you this offer," he said at last. "Your boat lies there,
ready. Get into her and go, otherwise--"

"I see," said I. "And you will marry her?"

"Yes," he said.

"Against her will?"

He looked at me with something like pity.

"Who can tell what a woman's will will be in a week? In less than that
she will marry me cheerfully. I hope you may grieve as short a time as
she will."

In my inmost heart I knew it was true. I had staked everything, not
for a woman's love, but for the whim of a girl! For a moment it was
too hard for me, and I bowed my head on the table by me and hid my
face.

Then he came and put his hand on mine, and said:

"Yes, Martin; young and old, we are all alike. They're not worth
quarreling for. But Nature's too strong."

"May I see her before I go?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

"Alone?"

"Yes," he said once more. "Go now--if she can see you."

I went up and cautiously opened the door. The signorina was lying on
the bed, with a shawl over her. She seemed to be asleep. I bent over
her and kissed her. She opened her eyes, and said, in a weary voice:

"Is it you, Jack?"

"Yes, my darling," said I. "I am going. I must go or die; and whether
I go or die, I must be alone."

She was strangely quiet--even apathetic. As I knelt down by her she
raised herself, and took my face between her hands and kissed me--not
passionately, but tenderly.

"My poor Jack!" she said; "it was no use, dear. It is no use to fight
against him."

Here was her strange subjection to that influence again.

"You love me?" I cried, in my pain.

"Yes," she said, "but I am very tired; and he will be good to me."

Without another word I went from her, with the bitter knowledge that
my great grief found but a pale reflection in her heart.

"I am ready to go," I said to the President.

"Come, then," he replied. "Here, take these, you may want them," and
he thrust a bundle of notes into my hand (some of my own from the bank
I afterward discovered).

Arrived at the boat, I got in mechanically and made all preparations
for the start.

Then the President took my hand.

"Good-by, Jack Martin, and good luck. Some day we may meet again. Just
now there's no room for us both here. You bear no malice?"

"No, sir," said I. "A fair fight, and you've won."

As I was pushing off, he added:

"When you arrive, send me word."

I nodded silently.

"Good-by, and good luck," he said again.

I turned the boat's head put to sea, and went forth on my lonely way
into the night.

CHAPTER XV.

A DIPLOMATIC ARRANGEMENT.

As far I am concerned, this story has now reached an end. With my
departure from Aureataland, I re-entered the world of humdrum life,
and since that memorable night in 1884, nothing has befallen me worthy
of a polite reader's attention. I have endured the drudgery incident
to earning a living; I have enjoyed the relaxations every wise man
makes for himself. But I should be guilty of unpardonable egotism if I
supposed that I myself was the only, or the most, interesting subject
presented in the foregoing pages, and I feel I shall merely be doing
my duty in briefly recording the facts in my possession concerning the
other persons who have figured in this record and the country where
its scene was laid.

I did not, of course, return to England on leaving Aureataland. I had
no desire to explain in person to the directors all the facts with
which they will now be in a position to acquaint themselves. I was
conscious that, at the last at all events, I had rather subordinated
their interests to my own necessities, and I knew well that my conduct
I would not meet with the indulgent judgment that it perhaps requires.
After all, men who have lost three hundred thousand dollars can hardly
be expected to be impartial, and I saw no reason for submitting myself
to a biased tribunal. I preferred to seek my fortune in a fresh
country (and, I may add, under a fresh name), and I am happy to say
that my prosperity in the land of my adoption has gone far to justify
the President's favorable estimate of my financial abilities. My
sudden disappearance excited some remark, and people were even found
to insinuate that the dollars went the same way as I did. I have never
troubled myself to contradict these scandalous rumors, being content
to rely on the handsome vindication from this charge which the
President published. In addressing the House of Assembly shortly after
his resumption of power, he referred at length to the circumstances
attendant on the late revolution, and remarked that although he was
unable to acquit Mr. Martin of most unjustifiable intrigues with the
rebels, yet he was in a position to assure them, as he had already
assured those to whom Mr. Martin was primarily responsible, that that
gentleman's hasty flight was dictated solely by a consciousness of
political guilt, and that, in money matters, Mr. Martin's hands were
as clean as his own. The reproach that had fallen on the fair fame
of Aureataland in this matter was due not to that able but misguided
young man, but to those unprincipled persons who, in the pursuit of
their designs, had not hesitated to plunder and despoil friendly
traders, established in the country under the sanction of public
faith.

The reproach to which his Excellency eloquently referred consisted in
the fact that not a cent of those three hundred thousand dollars which
lay in the bank that night was ever seen again! The theory was that
the colonel had made away with them, and the President took great
pains to prove that under the law of nations the restored Government
could not be held responsible for this occurrence. I know as little
about the law of nations as the President himself, but I felt quite
sure that whatever that exalted code might say (and it generally seems
to justify the conduct of all parties alike), none of that money would
ever find its way back to the directors' pockets. In this matter I
must say his Excellency behaved to me with scrupulous consideration;
not a word passed his lips about the second loan, about that unlucky
cable, or any other dealings with the money. For all he said, my
account of the matter, posted to the directors immediately after my
departure, stood unimpeached. The directors, however, took a view
opposed to his Excellency's, and relations became so strained that
they were contemplating the withdrawal of their business from
Whittingham altogether, when events occurred which modified their
action. Before I lay down my pen I must give some account of these
matters, and I cannot do so better than by inserting a letter which I
had the honor to receive from his Excellency, some two years after I
last saw him. I had obeyed his wish in communicating my address to
him, but up to this time had received only a short but friendly note,
acquainting me with the fact of his marriage to the signorina, and
expressing good wishes for my welfare in my new sphere of action. The
matters to which the President refers became to some extent public
property soon afterward, but certain other terms of the arrangement
are now given to the world for the first time. The letter ran as
follows:

"My DEAR MARTIN: As an old inhabitant
of Aureataland you will be
interested in the news I have to tell you.
I also take pleasure in hoping that in
spite of bygone differences, your friendly
feelings toward myself will make you
glad to hear news of my fortunes.

"You are no doubt acquainted generally
with the course of events here since
you left us. As regards private friends,
I have not indeed much to tell you.
You will not be surprised to learn that
Johnny Carr (who always speaks of you
with the utmost regard) has done the
most sensible thing he ever did in his
life in making Donna Antonia his wife.
She is a thoroughly good girl, although
she seems to have a very foolish prejudice
against Christina. I was able to
assist the young people's plans by the
gift of the late Colonel McGregor's
estates, which under our law passed to
the head of the state on that gentleman's
execution for high treason. You
will be amused to hear of another marriage
in our circle. The doctor and
Mme. Devarges have made a match
of it, and society rejoices to think it has
now heard the last of the late monsieur
and his patriotic sufferings. Jones, I
suppose you know, left us about a year
ago. The poor old fellow never recovered
from his fright on that night, to
say nothing of the cold he caught in
your draughty coal-cellar, where he took
refuge. The bank relieved him in
response to his urgent petitions, and
they've sent us out a young Puritan, to
whom it would be quite in vain to apply
for a timely little loan.

"I wish I could give you as satisfactory
an account of public affairs.
You were more or less behind the scenes
over here, so you know that to keep the
machine going is by no means an easy
task. I have kept it going, single-handed,
for fifteen years, and though
it's the custom to call me a mere adventurer
(and I don't say that's wrong),
upon my word I think I've given them
a pretty decent Government. But I've
had enough of it by now. The fact is,
my dear Martin, I'm not so young as I
was. In years I'm not much past middle
age, but I've had the devil of a life
of it, and I shouldn't be surprised if old
Marcus Whittingham's lease was pretty
nearly up. At any rate, my only chance,
so Anderson tells me, is to get rest, and
I'm going to give myself that chance.
I had thought at first of trying to find a
successor (as I have been denied an
heir of my body), and I thought of you.
But, while I was considering this, I received
a confidential proposal from the
Government of ---- [here the President
named the state of which Aureataland
had formed part]. They were
very anxious to get back their province;
at the same time, they were not at all
anxious to try conclusions with me again.
In short, they offered, if Aureataland
would come back, a guarantee of local
autonomy and full freedom; they would
take on themselves the burden of the
debt, and last, but not least, they would
offer the present President of the Republic
a compensation of five hundred
thousand dollars.

"I have not yet finally accepted the
offer, but I am going to do so--obtaining,
as a matter of form, the sanction of
the Assembly. I have made them double
their offer to me, but in the public documents
the money is to stand at the original
figure. This recognition of my
services, together with my little savings
(restored, my dear Martin, to the washstand),
will make me pretty comfortable
in my old age, and leave a competence
for my widow. Aureataland has had a
run alone; if there had been any grit in
the people they would have made a
nation of themselves. There isn't any,
and I'm not going to slave myself for
them any longer. No doubt they'll be
very well treated, and to tell the truth,
I don't much care if they aren't. After
all, they're a mongrel lot.

"I know you'll be pleased to hear of
this arrangement, as it gives your old
masters a better chance of getting their
money, for, between ourselves, they'd
never have got it out of me. At the
risk of shocking your feelings, I must
confess that your revolution only postponed
the day of repudiation.

"I hoped to have asked you some day
to rejoin us here. As matters stand, I
am more likely to come and find you;
for, when released, Christina and I are
going to bend our steps to the States.
And we hope to come soon. There's
a little difficulty outstanding about the
terms on which the Golden House and
my other property are to pass to the
new Government; this I hope to compromise
by abating half my claim in
private, and giving it all up in public.
Also, I have had to bargain for the
recognition of Johnny Carr's rights to
the colonel's goods. When all this is
settled there will be nothing to keep
me, and I shall leave here without much
reluctance. The first man I shall come
and see is you, and we'll have some
frolics together, if my old carcass holds
out. But the truth is, my boy, I'm not
the man I was. I've put too much
steam on all my life, and I must pull
up now, or the boiler will burst.

"Christina sends her love. She is as
anxious to see you as I am. But you
must wait till I am dead to make love
to her. Ever your sincere friend,

"MARCUS W. WHITTINGHAM."

As I write, I hear that the arrangement is to be carried out. So ends
Aureataland's brief history as a nation; so ends the story of her
national debt, more happily than I ever thought it would. I confess to
a tender recollection of the sunny, cheerful, lazy, dishonest little
place, where I spent four such eventful years. Perhaps I love it
because my romance was played there, as I should love any place
where I had seen the signorina. For I am not cured. I don't go
about moaning--I enjoy life. But, in spite of my affection for the
President, hardly a day passes that I don't curse that accursed
tree-root.

And she? what does she feel?

I don't know. I don't think I ever did know. But I have had a note
from her, and this is what she says:

"Fancy seeing old Jack again--poor
forsaken Jack! Marcus is very kind
(but very ill, poor fellow); but I shall
like to see you, Jack. Do you remember
what I was like? I'm still rather
pretty. This is in confidence, Jack.
Marcus thinks you'll run away from us,
now we are coming to ---- town [that's
where I live]. But I don't think you
will.

"Please meet me at the depot, Jack,
12.15 train. Marcus is coming by a
later one, so I shall be desolate if you
don't come. And bring that white
rose with you. Unless you produce it,
I won't speak to you.

"CHRISTINA."

Well, with another man's wife, this is rather embarrassing. But a
business man can't leave the place where his business is because a
foolish girl insists on coming there.

And as I am here, I may as well be civil and go to meet her. And, oh,
well! as I happen to have the thing, I may as well take it with me. It
can't do any harm.

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