“Somewhat,” said I. “A banker generally is interested in a debt.”
“I thought so,” said the colonel. “A time may come when we can act together. Meanwhile, keep your eye on the debt. Good-night!”
We parted at the door of his chambers in the Piazza, and I went on to my lodgings.
As I got into bed, rather puzzled and very uneasy, I damned the debt. Then, remembering that the debt was, as it seemed, for some reason a common interest to the signorina and myself, I apologized to it, and fell asleep.
I APPRECIATE THE SITUATION.
The flight of time brought no alleviation to the troubles of Aureataland. If an individual hard up is a pathetic sight, a nation hard up is an alarming spectacle; and Aureataland was very hard up. I suppose somebody had some money. But the Government had none; in consequence the Government employees had none, the officials had none, the President had none, and finally, I had none. The bank had a little—of other people’s, of course—but I was quite prepared for a “run” on us any day, and had cabled to the directors to implore a remittance in cash, for our notes were at a discount humiliating to contemplate. Political strife ran high. I dropped into the House of Assembly one afternoon toward the end of May, and, looking down from the gallery, saw the colonel in the full tide of wrathful declamation. He was demanding of miserable Don Antonio when the army was to be paid. The latter sat cowering under his scorn, and would, I verily believe, have bolted out of the House had he not been nailed to his seat by the cold eye of the President, who was looking on from his box. The minister on rising had nothing to urge but vague promises of speedy payment; but he utterly lacked the confident effrontery of his chief, and nobody was deceived by his weak protestations. I left the House in a considerable uproar, and strolled on to the house of a friend of mine, one Mme. Devarges, the widow of a French gentleman who had found his way to Whittingham from New Calendonia. Politeness demanded the assumption that he had found his way to New Caledonia owing to political troubles, but the usual cloud hung over the precise date and circumstances of his patriotic sacrifice. Madame sometimes considered it necessary to bore herself and others with denunciations of the various tyrants or would-be tyrants of France; but, apart from this pious offering on the shrine of her husband’s reputation, she was a bright and pleasant little woman. I found assembled round her tea-table a merry party, including Donna Antonia, unmindful of her father’s agonies, and one Johnny Carr, who deserves mention as being the only honest man in Aureataland. I speak, of course, of the place as I found it. He was a young Englishman, what they call a “cadet,” of a good family, shipped off with a couple of thousand pounds to make his fortune. Land was cheap among us, and Johnny had bought an estate and settled down as a landowner. Recently he had blossomed forth as a keen Constitutionalist and a devoted admirer of the President’s, and held a seat in the assembly in that interest. Johnny was not a clever man nor a wise one, but he was merry, and, as I have thought it necessary to mention, honest.