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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Man Of Mark - Chapter 8. Johnny Carr Is Willful
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A Man Of Mark - Chapter 8. Johnny Carr Is Willful Post by :Marc_Meole Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Hope Date :May 2012 Read :836

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A Man Of Mark - Chapter 8. Johnny Carr Is Willful

CHAPTER VIII. JOHNNY CARR IS WILLFUL

The next three days were on the whole the most uncomfortable I have ever spent in my life. I got little sleep and no rest; I went about with a revolver handy all day, and jumped every time I heard a sound. I expended much change in buying every edition of all the papers; I listened with dread to the distant cries of news-venders, fearing, as the words gradually became distinguishable, to hear that our secret was a secret no longer. I was bound to show myself, and yet shrank from all gatherings of men. I transacted my business with an absent mind and a face of such superhuman innocence that, had anyone been watching me, he must at once have suspected something wrong. I was incapable of adding up a row of figures, and Jones became most solicitous about the state of my brain. In a word, my nerves were quite shattered, and I registered a vow never to upset a Government again as long I lived. In future, the established constitution would have to be good enough for me. I invoked impartial curses on the President, the colonel, the directors, and myself! and I verily believe that only the thought of the signorina prevented me making a moonlight flitting across the frontier with a whole skin at least, if with an empty pocket, and leaving the rival patriots of Aureataland to fight it out among themselves.

Happily, however, nothing occurred to justify my fears. The other side seemed to be sunk in dull security. The President went often to the Ministry of Finance, and was closeted for hours with Don Antonio; I suppose they were perfecting their nefarious scheme. There were no signs of excitement or activity at the barracks; the afternoon gatherings on the Piazza were occupied with nothing more serious than the prospects of lawn tennis and the grievous dearth of dances. The official announcements relative to the debt had had a quieting effect; and all classes seemed inclined to wait and see what the President's new plan was.

So passed Wednesday and Thursday. On neither day had I heard anything from my fellow-conspirators; our arrangements for writing had so far proved unnecessary--or unsuccessful. The latter possibility sent a shiver down my back, and my lively fancy pictured his Excellency's smile as he perused the treasonable documents. If I heard nothing on the morning of Friday, I was determined at all risks to see the colonel. With the dawn of that eventful day, however, I was relieved of this necessity. I was lying in bed about half-past nine (for I never add to the woes of life by early rising) when my servant brought in three letters.

"Sent on from the bank, sir," he said, "with Mr. Jones' compliments, and are you going there this morning?"

"My compliments to Mr. Jones, and he may expect me in five minutes," I replied.

The letters were all marked "Immediate"; one from the signorina, one from the colonel, one from the barracks. I opened the last first and read as follows:

"The officers of the Aureataland Army have the honor to remind Mr. John Martin that they hope to have the pleasure of his company at supper this evening at ten o'clock precisely. In the unavoidable absence of his Excellency, the President, owing to the pressing cares of state, and of the Hon. Colonel McGregor from indisposition, the toast of the Army of Aureataland will be proposed by Major Alphonse DeChair.

"P.S.--Cher Martin, speak long this night. The two great men do not come, and the evening wants to be filled out. _Tout a vous_,

"ALPHONSE DECHAIR."

"It shall be long, my dear boy, and we will fill out your evening for you," said I to myself, well pleased so far.

Then I opened the signorina's epistle.


"DEAR MR. MARTIN (it began):
Will you be so kind as to send me in
the course of the day _twenty dollars in
small change_? I want to give the
school children a scramble. I inclose
check. I am so sorry you could not
dine with me to-night, but after all I
am glad, because I should have had to
put you off, for I am commanded
rather sudden to dine at the Golden
House. With kind regards, believe
me, yours sincerely,

"CHRISTINA NUGENT."

"Very good," said I. "I reckon the scramble will keep. And now for the colonel."

The colonel's letter ran thus:

"DEAR MARTIN: I inclose check
for five hundred dollars. My man will
call for the cash to-morrow morning.
I give you notice because I want it all
in silver for wages. (Rather a poverty
of invention among us, I thought.)
Carr and I are here together, both
seedy. Poor Carr is on his back and
likely to remain there for a day or two--bad
attack of champagne. I'm
better, and though I've cut the affair at
barracks to-night, I fully expect to be
up and about this afternoon.

"Ever yours,

"GEO. MCGREGOR."


"Oh! so Carr is on his back and likely to remain there, is he? Very likely, I expect; but I wonder what it means. I hope the colonel hasn't been very drastic. However, everything seems right; in fact, better than I hoped."

In this more cheerful frame of mind I arose, breakfasted at leisure, and set out for the bank about eleven.

Of course, the first person I met in the street was one of the last I wanted to meet, namely, Donna Antonia. She was on horseback, and her horse looked as if he'd done some work. At the sight of me she reined up, and I could not avoid stopping as I lifted my hat.

"Whence so early?" I asked.

"Early?" she said. "I don't call this early. I've been for a long ride; in fact, I've ridden over to Mr. Carr's place, with a message from papa; but he's not there. Do you know where he is, Mr. Martin?"

"Haven't an idea," said I.

"He hasn't been home for four nights," she continued, "and he hasn't been to the Ministry either. It's very odd that he should disappear like this, just when all the business is going on, too."

"What business, Donna Antonia?" I asked blandly.

She colored, recollecting, no doubt that the business was still a secret.

"Oh, well! you know they're always busy at the Ministry of Finance at this time. It's the time they pay everybody, isn't it?"

"It's the time they ought to pay everybody," I said.

"Well," she went on, without noticing my correction, "at any rate, papa and the President are both very much vexed with him; so I offered to make my ride in his direction."

"Where can he be?" I asked again.

"Well," she replied, "I believe he's at Colonel McGregor's, and after lunch I shall go over there. I know he dined there on Monday, and I dare say he stayed on."

"No," thought I, "you mustn't do that, it might be inconvenient." So I said:

"I know he's not there; I heard from McGregor this morning, and he says Carr left him on Tuesday. Why, how stupid I am! The colonel says Carr told him he was going off for a couple of days' sail in his yacht. I expect he's got contrary winds, and can't get back again."

"It's very bad of him to go," she said, "but no doubt that's it. Papa will be angry, but he'll be glad to know no harm has come to him."

"Happy to have relieved your mind," said I, and bade her farewell, thanking my stars for a lucky inspiration, and wondering whether Don Antonio would find no harm had come to poor Johnny. I had my doubts. I regretted having to tell Donna Antonia what I did not believe to be true, but these things are incidental to revolutions--a point of resemblance between them and commercial life.

When I arrived at the bank I dispatched brief answers to my budget of letters; each of the answers was to the same purport, namely, that I should be at the barracks at the appointed time. I need not trouble the reader with the various wrappings in which this essential piece of intelligence was involved. I then had a desperate encounter with Jones; business was slack, and Jones was fired with the unholy desire of seizing the opportunity thus offered to make an exhaustive inquiry into the state of our reserve. He could not understand my sudden punctiliousness as to times and seasons, and I was afraid I should have to tell him plainly that only over my lifeless body should he succeed in investing the contents of the safe. At last I effected a diversion by persuading him to give Mrs. Jones a jaunt into the country, and, thus left in peace, I spent my afternoon in making final preparations. I burned many letters; I wrote a touching farewell to my father, in which, under the guise of offering forgiveness, I took occasion to point out to him how greatly his imprudent conduct had contributed to increase the difficulties of his dutiful son. I was only restrained from making a will by the obvious imprudence of getting it witnessed. I spent a feverish hour in firing imaginary shots from my revolver, to ascertain whether the instrument was in working order. Finally I shut up the bank at five, went to the Piazza, partook of a light repast, and smoked cigars with mad speed till it was time to dress for the supper; and never was I more rejoiced than when the moment for action at last came. As I was dressing, lingering over each garment with a feeling that I might never put it on, or, for that matter, take it off again, I received a second note from the colonel. It was brought by a messenger, on a sweating horse, who galoped up to my door. I knew the messenger well by sight; he was the colonel's valet. My heart was in my mouth as I took the envelope from his hands (for I ran down myself). The fellow was evidently in our secret, for he grinned nervously at me as he handed it over, and said:

"I was to ride fast, and destroy the letter if anyone came near."

I nodded, and opened it. It said:


"C. escaped about six this evening.
Believed to have gone to his house.
He _suspects_. If you see him, shoot on
sight."


I turned to the man.

"Had Mr. Carr a horse?" I asked.

"No, sir; left on foot."

"But there are horses at his house."

"No, sir, the colonel has borrowed them all."

"Why do you think he's gone there?"

"Couldn't come along the road to Whittingham, sir, it's patrolled."

There was still a chance. It was ten miles across the country from the colonel's to Johnny's and six miles on from Johnny's to Whittingham. The man divined my thoughts.

"He can't go fast, sir, he's wounded in the leg. If he goes home first, as he will, because he doesn't know his horses are gone, he can't get here before eleven at the earliest."

"How was he wounded?" I asked. "Tell me what the colonel did to him, and be short."

"Yes, sir. The colonel told us Mr. Carr was to be kept at the ranch over night; wasn't to leave it alive, sir, he said. Well, up to yesterday it was all right and pleasant. Mr. Carr wasn't very well, and the doses the colonel gave him didn't seem to make him any better--quite the contrary. But yesterday afternoon he got rampageous, would go, anyhow, ill or well! So he got up and dressed. We'd taken all his weapons from him, sir, and when he came down dressed, and asked for his horse, we told him he couldn't go. Well, he just said, 'Get out of the light, I tell you,' and began walking toward the hall door. I don't mind saying we were rather put about, sir. We didn't care to shoot him as he stood, and it's my belief we'd have let him pass; but just as he was going out, in comes the colonel. 'Hallo! what's this, Johnny?' says he. 'You've got some damned scheme on,' said Mr. Carr. 'I believe you've been drugging me. Out of the way, McGregor, or I'll brain you.' 'Where are you going?' says the colonel. 'To Whittingham, to the President's,' said he. 'Not to-day,' says the colonel. 'Come, be reasonable, Johnny. You'll be all right to-morrow.' 'Colonel McGregor,' says he, 'I'm unarmed, and you've got a revolver. You can shoot me if you like, but unless you do, I'm going out. You've been playing some dodge on me, and, by God! you shall pay for it.' With that he rushed straight at the colonel. The colonel, he stepped on one side and let him pass. Then he went after him to the door, waited till he was about fifteen yards off, then up with his revolver, as cool as you like, and shot him as clean as a sixpence in the right leg. Down came Mr. Carr; he lay there a minute or two cursing, and then he fainted. 'Pick him up, dress his wound, and put him to bed,' says the colonel. Well, sir, it was only a flesh wound, so we soon got him comfortable, and there he lay all night."

"How did he get away to-day?"

"We were all out, sir--went over to Mr. Carr's place to borrow his horses. The colonel took a message, sir. (Here the fellow grinned again.) I don't know what it was. Well, when we'd got the horses, we rode round outside the town, and came into the road between here and the colonel's. Ten horses we got, and we went there to give the ten men who were patrolling the road the fresh horses. We heard from them that no one had come along. When we got home, he'd been gone two hours!"

"How did he manage it?"

"A woman, sir," said my warrior, with supreme disgust. "Gave her a kiss and ten dollars to undo the front door, and then he was off! He daren't go to the stables to get a horse, so he was forced to limp away on his game leg. A plucky one he is, too," he concluded.

"Poor old Johnny!" said I. "You didn't go after him?"

"No time, sir. Couldn't tire the horses. Besides, when he'd once got home, he's got a dozen men there, and they'd have kept us all night. Well, sir, I must be off. Any answer for the colonel? He'll be outside the Golden House by eleven, sir, and Mr. Carr won't get in if he comes after that."

"Tell him to rely on me," I answered. But for all that I didn't mean to shoot Johnny on sight. So, much perturbed in spirit, I set off to the barracks, wondering when Johnny would get to Whittingham, and whether he would fall into the colonel's hands outside the Golden House. It struck me as unpleasantly probable that he might come and spoil the harmony of my evening; if he came there first, the conspiracy would probably lose my aid at an early moment! What would happen to me I didn't know. But, as I took off my coat in the lobby, I bent down as if to tie a shoestring, and had one more look at my revolver.

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