Read CHAPTER XV - A DIPLOMATIC ARRANGEMENT of A Man of Mark, free online book, by Anthony Hope, on ReadCentral.com.

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.