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A Man of Mark by Anthony Hope

Aureataland will meet her obligations


I presume this is a business visit, Mr. Martin, it is more regular that I should receive you in the presence of one of my constitutional advisers. Mr. Carr is acting as my secretary, and you can speak freely before him."

I was annoyed at failing in my attempt to see the President alone, but not wishing to show it, I merely bowed and said:

"I venture to intrude on your Excellency, in consequence of a letter from my directors. They inform me that, to use their words, 'disquieting rumors' are afloat on the exchanges in regard to the Aureataland loan, and they direct me to submit to your Excellency the expediency of giving some public notification relative to the payment of the interest falling due next month. It appears from their communication that it is apprehended that some difficulty may occur in the matter."

"Would not this application, if necessary at all, have been, more properly made to the Ministry of Finance in the first instance?" said the President. "These details hardly fall within my province."

"I can only follow my instructions, your Excellency," I replied.

"Have you any objection, Mr. Martin," said the President, "to allowing myself and my advisers to see this letter?"

"I am empowered to submit it only to your Excellency's own eye."

justify;">"Oh, only to my eye," said he, with an amused expression. "That was why the interview was to be private?"

"Exactly, sir," I replied. "I intend no disrespect to the Minister of Finance or to your secretary, sir, but I am bound by my orders."

"You are an exemplary servant, Mr. Martin. But I don't think I need trouble you about it further. Is it a cable?"

He smiled so wickedly at this question that I saw he had penetrated my little fiction. However, I only said:

"A letter, sir."

"Well, gentlemen," said he to the others, "I think we may reassure Mr. Martin. Tell your directors this, Mr. Martin: The Government does not see any need of a public notification, and none will be made. I think we agree, gentlemen, that to acknowledge the necessity of any such action would be highly derogatory. But assure them that the President has stated to you, Mr. Martin, personally, with the concurrence of his advisers, that he anticipates no difficulties in your being in a position to remit the full amount of interest to them on the proper day."

"I may assure them, sir, that the interest will be punctually paid?"

"Surely I expressed myself in a manner you could understand," said he, with the slightest emphasis on the "you." "Aureataland will meet her obligations. You will receive all your due, Mr. Martin. That is so, gentlemen?"

Don Antonio acquiesced at once. Johnny Carr, I noticed, said nothing, and fidgeted rather uneasily in his chair. I knew what the President meant. He meant, "If we don't pay, pay it out of your reserve fund." Alas, the reserve fund was considerably diminished; I had enough, and just enough, left to pay the next installment if I paid none of my own debts. I felt very vicious as I saw his Excellency taking keen pleasure in the consciousness of my difficulties (for he had a shrewd notion of how the land lay), but of course I could say nothing. So I rose and bowed myself out, feeling I had gained nothing, except a very clear conviction that I should not see the color of the President's money on the next interest day. True, I could just pay myself. But what would happen next time? And if he wouldn't pay, and I couldn't pay, the game would be up. As to the original loan, it is true I had no responsibility; but then, if no interest were paid, the fact that I had applied the second loan, _my_ loan, in a different manner from what I was authorized to do, and had represented myself to have done, would be inevitably discovered. And my acceptance of the bonus, my dealings with the reserve fund, my furnishing inaccurate returns of investments, all this would, I knew, look rather queer to people who didn't know the circumstances.

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