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A Man of Mark by Anthony Hope

Perhaps the best known person in Aureataland best known


OVERTURES FROM THE OPPOSITION.

After the incidents above recorded, things went on quietly enough for some months. I had a serious talk with Jones, reproaching him gravely for his outrageous demeanor. He capitulated abjectly on being shown the cable, which was procured in the manner kindly indicated by the President. The latter had perhaps been in too great a hurry with his heavy guns, for his hint of violence had rather stirred than allayed Jones' apprehensions. If there were nothing to conceal, why should his Excellency not stick at murder to hide it? However, I explained to him the considerations of high policy, dictating inviolable secrecy, and justifying a somewhat arbitrary way of dealing with a trusted official; and the marked graciousness with which Jones was received when he met the President at the ministry of finance on current business went far to obliterate his unpleasant recollections. I further bound him to my fortunes by obtaining for him a rise of salary from the directors, "in consequence of the favorable report of his conduct received from Mr. Martin."

Peaceful as matters seemed, I was not altogether at ease. To begin with the new loan did not apparently at all improve the financial position of Aureataland. Desolation still reigned on the scene of the harbor works; there was the usual difficulty in paying salaries and meeting current expenditure. The President did not invite my confidence as to the disposal of his funds; indeed before long I was alarmed to see a growing coldness in his manner, which I considered at once ungrateful and menacing; and when the half-year came round he firmly refused to disburse more than half the amount of interest due on the second loan, thus forcing me to make an inroad on my reserve of forty-five thousand dollars. He gave me many good reasons for this course of conduct, dwelling chiefly on the necessary unproductiveness of public works in their early stages, and confidently promising full payment with arrears next time. Nevertheless, I began to see that I must face the possibility of a continual drain on resources that I had fondly hoped would be available for my own purposes for a considerable time at least. Thus one thing and another contributed to open a breach between his Excellency and myself, and, although I never ceased to feel his charm as a private companion, my distrust of him as a ruler, and, I may add, as a fellow-conspirator, steadily deepened.

Other influences were at this time--for we have now reached the beginning of 1883--at work in the same direction. Rich in the possession of my "bonus," I had plunged even more freely than before into the gayeties of Whittingham, and where I was welcome before, I was now a doubly honored guest. I had also taken to play on a somewhat high scale, and it was my reputation as a daring gambler that procured me the honor of an acquaintance with the signorina, the lady to whom the President had referred during his interview with me; and my acquaintance with the signorina was very rich in results.

This lady was, after the President, perhaps the best-known person in Aureataland--best known, that is, by name and face and fame--for her antecedents and circumstances were wrapped in impenetrable mystery. When I arrived in the country the Signorina Christina Nugent had been settled there about a year. She had appeared originally as a member of an operatic company, which had paid a visit to our National Theater from the United States. The company passed on its not very brilliant way, but the signorina remained behind. It was said she had taken a fancy to


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