BETWEEN TWO FIRES.
In spite of my many anxieties, after this eventful day I enjoyed the first decent night’s rest I had had for a week. The colonel refused, with an unnecessary ostentation of scorn, my patriotic offer to keep watch and ward over the city, and I turned in, tired out, at eleven o’clock, after a light dinner and a meditative pipe. I felt I had some reasons for self-congratulation; for considerable as my present difficulties were, yet I undoubtedly stood in a more hopeful position than I had before the revolution. I was now resolved to get my money safe out of the country, and I had hopes of being too much for McGregor in the other matter which shared my thoughts.
The return of day, however, brought new troubles. I was roused at an early hour by a visit from the colonel himself. He brought very disquieting tidings. In the course of the night every one of our proclamations had been torn down or defaced with ribald scribblings; posted over or alongside them, there now hung multitudinous enlarged copies of the President’s offensive notice. How or by whom these seditious measures had been effected we were at a loss to tell, for the officers and troops were loud in declaring their vigilance. In the very center of the Piazza, on the base of the President’s statue, was posted an enormous bill: “REMEMBER 1871! DEATH TO TRAITORS!”
“How could they do that unless the soldiers were in it?” asked the colonel gloomily. “I have sent those two companies back to barracks and had another lot out. But how do I know they’ll be any better? I met DeChair just now and asked him what the temper of the troops was. The little brute grinned, and said, ’Ah, mon President, it would be better if the good soldiers had a leetle more money.’”
“That’s about it,” said I; “but then you haven’t got much more money.”
“What I’ve got I mean to stick to,” said the colonel. “If this thing is going to burst up, I’m not going to be kicked out to starve. I tell you what it is, Martin, you must let me have some of that cash back again.”
The effrontery of this request amazed me. I was just drawing on the second leg of my trousers (for it was impossible to be comfortable in bed with that great creature fuming about), and I stopped with one leg in mid-air and gazed at him.
“Well, what’s the matter? Why are you to dance out with all the plunder?” he asked.
The man’s want of ordinary morality was too revolting. Didn’t he know very well that the money wasn’t mine? Didn’t he himself obtain my help on the express terms that I should have this money to repay the bank with? I finished putting on my garments, and then I replied:
“Not a farthing, colonel; not a damned farthing! By our agreement that cash was to be mine; but for that I wouldn’t have touched your revolution with a pair of tongs.”