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A Man of Mark by Anthony Hope

Is making itself obnoxious yes


"Take

one, and fill your glass. Don't believe people who tell you not to drink and smoke at the same time. Wine is better without smoke, and smoke is better without wine, but the combination is better than either separately."

I obeyed his commands, and we sat smoking and sipping in silence for some moments. Then the President said, suddenly:

"Mr. Martin, this country is in a perilous condition."

"Good God, your Excellency!" said I, "do you refer to the earthquake?" (There had been a slight shock a few days before.)

"No, sir," he replied, "to the finances. The harbor works have proved far more expensive than I anticipated. I hold in my hand the engineer's certificate that nine hundred and three thousand dollars have been actually expended on them, and they are not finished--not by any means finished."

They certainly were not; they were hardly begun.

"Dear me," I ventured to say, "that seems a good deal of money, considering what there is to show for it."

"You cannot doubt the certificate, Mr. Martin," said the President.

I did doubt the certificate, and should have liked to ask what fee the engineer had received. But I hastily said it was, of course, beyond suspicion.

"Yes,"

said he steadily, "quite beyond suspicion. You see, Mr. Martin, in my position I am compelled to be liberal. The Government cannot set other employers the example of grinding men down by low wages. However, reasons apart, there is the fact. We cannot go on without more money; and I may tell you, in confidence, that the political situation makes it imperative we should go on. Not only is my personal honor pledged, but the Opposition, Mr. Martin, led by the colonel, is making itself obnoxious--yes, I may say very obnoxious."

"The colonel, sir," said I, with a freedom engendered of dining, "is a beast."

"Well," said the President, with a tolerant smile, "the colonel, unhappily for the country, is no true patriot. But he is powerful; he is rich; he is, under myself alone, in command of the army. And, moreover, I believe he stands well with the signorina. The situation, in fact, is desperate. I must have money, Mr. Martin. Will your directors make me a new loan?"

I knew very well the fate that would attend any such application. The directors were already decidedly uneasy about their first loan; shareholders had asked awkward questions, and the chairman had found no small difficulty in showing that the investment was likely to prove either safe or remunerative. Again, only a fortnight before, the Government had made a formal application to me on the same subject. I cabled the directors, and received a prompt reply in the single word "Tootsums," which in our code meant, "Must absolutely and finally decline to entertain any applications." I communicated the contents of the cable to Senor Don Antonio de la Casabianca, the Minister of Finance, who had, of course, communicated them in turn to the President.


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