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A Man of Mark by Anthony Hope

I don't suppose Whittingham dreams of any attempt


"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.

justify;">"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."


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