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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Man Of Mark - Chapter 15. A Diplomatic Arrangement
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A Man Of Mark - Chapter 15. A Diplomatic Arrangement Post by :Marc_Meole Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Hope Date :May 2012 Read :1033

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A Man Of Mark - Chapter 15. A Diplomatic Arrangement

CHAPTER XV. A DIPLOMATIC ARRANGEMENT

As far I am concerned, this story has now reached an end. With my departure from Aureataland, I re-entered the world of humdrum life, and since that memorable night in 1884, nothing has befallen me worthy of a polite reader's attention. I have endured the drudgery incident to earning a living; I have enjoyed the relaxations every wise man makes for himself. But I should be guilty of unpardonable egotism if I supposed that I myself was the only, or the most, interesting subject presented in the foregoing pages, and I feel I shall merely be doing my duty in briefly recording the facts in my possession concerning the other persons who have figured in this record and the country where its scene was laid.

I did not, of course, return to England on leaving Aureataland. I had no desire to explain in person to the directors all the facts with which they will now be in a position to acquaint themselves. I was conscious that, at the last at all events, I had rather subordinated their interests to my own necessities, and I knew well that my conduct I would not meet with the indulgent judgment that it perhaps requires. After all, men who have lost three hundred thousand dollars can hardly be expected to be impartial, and I saw no reason for submitting myself to a biased tribunal. I preferred to seek my fortune in a fresh country (and, I may add, under a fresh name), and I am happy to say that my prosperity in the land of my adoption has gone far to justify the President's favorable estimate of my financial abilities. My sudden disappearance excited some remark, and people were even found to insinuate that the dollars went the same way as I did. I have never troubled myself to contradict these scandalous rumors, being content to rely on the handsome vindication from this charge which the President published. In addressing the House of Assembly shortly after his resumption of power, he referred at length to the circumstances attendant on the late revolution, and remarked that although he was unable to acquit Mr. Martin of most unjustifiable intrigues with the rebels, yet he was in a position to assure them, as he had already assured those to whom Mr. Martin was primarily responsible, that that gentleman's hasty flight was dictated solely by a consciousness of political guilt, and that, in money matters, Mr. Martin's hands were as clean as his own. The reproach that had fallen on the fair fame of Aureataland in this matter was due not to that able but misguided young man, but to those unprincipled persons who, in the pursuit of their designs, had not hesitated to plunder and despoil friendly traders, established in the country under the sanction of public faith.

The reproach to which his Excellency eloquently referred consisted in the fact that not a cent of those three hundred thousand dollars which lay in the bank that night was ever seen again! The theory was that the colonel had made away with them, and the President took great pains to prove that under the law of nations the restored Government could not be held responsible for this occurrence. I know as little about the law of nations as the President himself, but I felt quite sure that whatever that exalted code might say (and it generally seems to justify the conduct of all parties alike), none of that money would ever find its way back to the directors' pockets. In this matter I must say his Excellency behaved to me with scrupulous consideration; not a word passed his lips about the second loan, about that unlucky cable, or any other dealings with the money. For all he said, my account of the matter, posted to the directors immediately after my departure, stood unimpeached. The directors, however, took a view opposed to his Excellency's, and relations became so strained that they were contemplating the withdrawal of their business from Whittingham altogether, when events occurred which modified their action. Before I lay down my pen I must give some account of these matters, and I cannot do so better than by inserting a letter which I had the honor to receive from his Excellency, some two years after I last saw him. I had obeyed his wish in communicating my address to him, but up to this time had received only a short but friendly note, acquainting me with the fact of his marriage to the signorina, and expressing good wishes for my welfare in my new sphere of action. The matters to which the President refers became to some extent public property soon afterward, but certain other terms of the arrangement are now given to the world for the first time. The letter ran as follows:


"My DEAR MARTIN: As an old inhabitant
of Aureataland you will be
interested in the news I have to tell you.
I also take pleasure in hoping that in
spite of bygone differences, your friendly
feelings toward myself will make you
glad to hear news of my fortunes.

"You are no doubt acquainted generally
with the course of events here since
you left us. As regards private friends,
I have not indeed much to tell you.
You will not be surprised to learn that
Johnny Carr (who always speaks of you
with the utmost regard) has done the
most sensible thing he ever did in his
life in making Donna Antonia his wife.
She is a thoroughly good girl, although
she seems to have a very foolish prejudice
against Christina. I was able to
assist the young people's plans by the
gift of the late Colonel McGregor's
estates, which under our law passed to
the head of the state on that gentleman's
execution for high treason. You
will be amused to hear of another marriage
in our circle. The doctor and
Mme. Devarges have made a match
of it, and society rejoices to think it has
now heard the last of the late monsieur
and his patriotic sufferings. Jones, I
suppose you know, left us about a year
ago. The poor old fellow never recovered
from his fright on that night, to
say nothing of the cold he caught in
your draughty coal-cellar, where he took
refuge. The bank relieved him in
response to his urgent petitions, and
they've sent us out a young Puritan, to
whom it would be quite in vain to apply
for a timely little loan.

"I wish I could give you as satisfactory
an account of public affairs.
You were more or less behind the scenes
over here, so you know that to keep the
machine going is by no means an easy
task. I have kept it going, single-handed,
for fifteen years, and though
it's the custom to call me a mere adventurer
(and I don't say that's wrong),
upon my word I think I've given them
a pretty decent Government. But I've
had enough of it by now. The fact is,
my dear Martin, I'm not so young as I
was. In years I'm not much past middle
age, but I've had the devil of a life
of it, and I shouldn't be surprised if old
Marcus Whittingham's lease was pretty
nearly up. At any rate, my only chance,
so Anderson tells me, is to get rest, and
I'm going to give myself that chance.
I had thought at first of trying to find a
successor (as I have been denied an
heir of my body), and I thought of you.
But, while I was considering this, I received
a confidential proposal from the
Government of ---- (here the President
named the state of which Aureataland
had formed part). They were
very anxious to get back their province;
at the same time, they were not at all
anxious to try conclusions with me again.
In short, they offered, if Aureataland
would come back, a guarantee of local
autonomy and full freedom; they would
take on themselves the burden of the
debt, and last, but not least, they would
offer the present President of the Republic
a compensation of five hundred
thousand dollars.

"I have not yet finally accepted the
offer, but I am going to do so--obtaining,
as a matter of form, the sanction of
the Assembly. I have made them double
their offer to me, but in the public documents
the money is to stand at the original
figure. This recognition of my
services, together with my little savings
(restored, my dear Martin, to the washstand),
will make me pretty comfortable
in my old age, and leave a competence
for my widow. Aureataland has had a
run alone; if there had been any grit in
the people they would have made a
nation of themselves. There isn't any,
and I'm not going to slave myself for
them any longer. No doubt they'll be
very well treated, and to tell the truth,
I don't much care if they aren't. After
all, they're a mongrel lot.

"I know you'll be pleased to hear of
this arrangement, as it gives your old
masters a better chance of getting their
money, for, between ourselves, they'd
never have got it out of me. At the
risk of shocking your feelings, I must
confess that your revolution only postponed
the day of repudiation.

"I hoped to have asked you some day
to rejoin us here. As matters stand, I
am more likely to come and find you;
for, when released, Christina and I are
going to bend our steps to the States.
And we hope to come soon. There's
a little difficulty outstanding about the
terms on which the Golden House and
my other property are to pass to the
new Government; this I hope to compromise
by abating half my claim in
private, and giving it all up in public.
Also, I have had to bargain for the
recognition of Johnny Carr's rights to
the colonel's goods. When all this is
settled there will be nothing to keep
me, and I shall leave here without much
reluctance. The first man I shall come
and see is you, and we'll have some
frolics together, if my old carcass holds
out. But the truth is, my boy, I'm not
the man I was. I've put too much
steam on all my life, and I must pull
up now, or the boiler will burst.

"Christina sends her love. She is as
anxious to see you as I am. But you
must wait till I am dead to make love
to her. Ever your sincere friend,

"MARCUS W. WHITTINGHAM."


As I write, I hear that the arrangement is to be carried out. So ends Aureataland's brief history as a nation; so ends the story of her national debt, more happily than I ever thought it would. I confess to a tender recollection of the sunny, cheerful, lazy, dishonest little place, where I spent four such eventful years. Perhaps I love it because my romance was played there, as I should love any place where I had seen the signorina. For I am not cured. I don't go about moaning--I enjoy life. But, in spite of my affection for the President, hardly a day passes that I don't curse that accursed tree-root.

And she? what does she feel?

I don't know. I don't think I ever did know. But I have had a note from her, and this is what she says:


"Fancy seeing old Jack again--poor
forsaken Jack! Marcus is very kind
(but very ill, poor fellow); but I shall
like to see you, Jack. Do you remember
what I was like? I'm still rather
pretty. This is in confidence, Jack.
Marcus thinks you'll run away from us,
now we are coming to ---- town (that's
where I live). But I don't think you
will.

"Please meet me at the depot, Jack,
12.15 train. Marcus is coming by a
later one, so I shall be desolate if you
don't come. And bring that white
rose with you. Unless you produce it,
I won't speak to you.

"CHRISTINA."


Well, with another man's wife, this is rather embarrassing. But a business man can't leave the place where his business is because a foolish girl insists on coming there.

And as I am here, I may as well be civil and go to meet her. And, oh, well! as I happen to have the thing, I may as well take it with me. It can't do any harm.


(THE END)
Anthony Hope's Novel: Man of Mark

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