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A Man of Mark by Anthony Hope

At Mon Repos I soon became an habitual


It

may be supposed, then, that I thought my money very well invested when it procured me an invitation to "Mon Repos," where the lady of the house was in the habit of allowing a genteel amount of gambling among her male friends. She never played herself, but stood and looked on with much interest. On occasion she would tempt fortune by the hand of a chosen deputy, and nothing could be prettier or more artistic than her behavior. She was just eager enough for a girl unused to the excitement and fond of triumph, just indifferent enough to show that her play was merely a pastime, and the gain of the money or its loss a matter of no moment. Ah! signorina, you were a great artist.

At "Mon Repos" I soon became an habitual, and, I was fain to think, a welcome, guest. Mrs. Carrington, who entertained a deep distrust of the manners and excesses of Aureataland, was good enough to consider me eminently respectable, while the signorina was graciousness itself. I was even admitted to the select circle at the dinner party which, as a rule, preceded her Wednesday evening reception, and I was a constant figure round the little roulette board, which, of all forms of gaming, was our hostess' favorite delectation. The colonel was, not to my pleasure, an equally invariable guest, and the President himself would often honor the party with his presence, an honor we found rather expensive, for his luck at all games of skill or chance was extraordinary.

justify;">"I have always trusted Fortune," he would say, "and to me she is not fickle."

"Who would be fickle if your Excellency were pleased to trust her?" the signorina would respond, with a glance of almost fond admiration.

This sort of thing did not please McGregor. He made no concealment of the fact that he claimed the foremost place among the signorina's admirers, utterly declining to make way even for the President. The latter took his boorishness very quietly; and I could not avoid the conclusion that the President held, or thought he held, the trumps. I was, naturally, intensely jealous of both these great men, and, although I had no cause to complain of my treatment, I could not stifle some resentment at the idea that I was, after all, an outsider and not allowed a part in the real drama that was going on. My happiness was further damped by the fact that luck ran steadily against me, and I saw my bonus dwindling very rapidly. I suppose I may as well be frank, and confess that my bonus, to speak strictly, vanished within six months after I first set foot in "Mon Repos," and I found it necessary to make that temporary use of the "interest fund," which the President had indicated as open to me under the terms of our bargain. However, my uneasiness on this score was lightened when the next installment of interest was punctually paid, and, with youthful confidence, I made little doubt that luck would turn before long.

Thus time passed on, and the beginning of 1884 found us all leading an apparently merry and untroubled life. In public affairs the temper was very different. The scarcity of money was intense, and serious murmuring had arises when the President "squandered" his ready money in buying interest, leaving his civil servants and soldiers unpaid. This was the topic of much discussion in the press at the time, when I went up one March evening to the signorina's. I had been detained at the bank, and found the play in full swing when I came in. The signorina was taking no part in it, but sat by herself on a low lounge by the veranda window. I went up to her and made my bow.


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