I did as I was bid.
An excess of authority.
It was a beautiful moonlight night, and Whittingham was looking her best as we made our way along the avenue leading to the Piazza 1871. The President walked briskly, silent but serene; I followed, the trouble in my mind reflected in a somewhat hang-dog air, and I was not much comforted when the President broke the stillness of the night by saying:
“You have set your foot on the first rung of the ladder that leads to fame and wealth, Mr. Martin.”
I was rather afraid I had set it on the first rung of the ladder that leads to the gallows. But there the foot was; what the ladder turned out to be was in the hands of the gods; so I threw off care, and as we entered the Piazza I pointed to the statue and said:
“Behold my inspiring example, your Excellency.”
“By Jove, yes!” he replied; “I make the most of my opportunities.”
I knew he regarded me as one of his opportunities, and was making the most of me. This is not a pleasant point of view to regard one’s self from, so I changed the subject, and said:
“Shall we call for Don Antonio?”
“Well, as he’s Minister of Finance, I thought perhaps his presence would make the matter more regular.”
“If the presence of the President,” said that official, “can’t make a matter regular, I don’t know what can. Let him sleep on. Isn’t his signature on the bonds enough?”
What could I do? I made one more weak objection:
“What shall we tell Jones?”
“What shall we tell Jones?” he echoed. “Really, Mr. Martin, you must use your discretion as to what you tell your employees. You can hardly expect me to tell Jones anything, beyond that it’s a fine morning.”
We had now reached the bank, which stood in Liberty Street, a turning out of the Piazza. I took out my key, unlocked the door, and we entered together. We passed into my inner sanctum, where the safe stood.
“What’s it in?” asked the President.
“United States bonds, and bills on New York and London,” I replied.
“Good,” said he. “Let me look.”
I undid the safe, and took out the securities. He examined them carefully, placing each after due scrutiny in a small handbag, in which he had brought down the bonds I was to receive. I stood by, holding a shaded candle. At this moment a voice cried from the door:
“If you move you’re dead men!”
I started and looked up. The President looked up without starting. There was dear old Jones, descended from his upper chamber, where he and Mrs. Jones resided. He was clad only in his night-shirt, and was leveling a formidable gun full at the august head of his Excellency.
“Ah, Mr. Jones,” said the latter “it’s a fine morning.”