“What?” I cried.
“Yes, sir. Didn’t I mention it? Why, the day after you and the President were here that night, his Excellency came down in the afternoon, when you’d gone out to the Piazza, and said he wanted it. He said, sir, that you’d said it was to go to the Ministry of Finance. He was very affable, sir, and told me that it was necessary the original should be submitted to the minister for his inspection; and as he was passing by (he’d come in to cash a check on his private account) he’d take it up himself. Hasn’t he given it back to you, sir? He said he would.”
I had just strength enough to gasp out:
“Slipped his memory, no doubt. All right, Jones.”
“May I go now, sir?” said Jones. “Mrs. Jones wanted me to go with her to—”
“Yes, go,” said I, and as he went out I added a destination different, no doubt, from what the good lady had proposed. For I saw it all now. That old villain (pardon my warmth) had stolen my forged cable, and, if need arose, meant to produce it as his own justification. I had been done, done brown—and Jones’ idiocy had made the task easy. I had no evidence but my word that the President knew the message was fabricated. Up till now I had thought that if I stood convicted I should have the honor of his Excellency’s support in the dock. But now! why now, I might prove myself a thief, but I couldn’t prove him one. I had convinced Jones, not for my good, but for his. I had forged papers, not for my good, but for his. True, I had spent the money myself, but—
“Damn it all!” I cried in the bitterness of my spirit, “he won about three-quarters of that.”
And his Excellency’s words came back to my memory, “I make the most of my opportunities.”
MOURONS POUR LA PATRIE!
The next week was a busy one for me. I spent it in scraping together every bit of cash I could lay my hands on. If I could get together enough to pay the interest on the three hundred thousand dollars supposed to be invested in approved securities,—really disposed of in a manner only known to his Excellency,—I should have six months to look about me. Now, remaining out of my “bonus” was nil, out of my “reserve fund” ten thousand dollars. This was enough. But alas! how happened it that this sum was in my hands? Because I had borrowed five thousand from the bank! If they wouldn’t let their own manager overdraw, whom would they? So I overdrew. But if this money wasn’t back before the monthly balancing, Jones would know! And I dared not rely on being able to stop his mouth again. When I said Johnny Carr was the only honest man in Aureataland I forgot Jones. To my grief and annoyance Jones also was honest, and Jones would consider it his duty to let the directors know of my overdraft. If once they knew, I was lost, for an overdraft effected privately from the safe by the manager is, I do not deny it, decidedly irregular. Unless I could add five thousand dollars to my ten thousand before the end of the month I should have to bolt!