The Lighted Match (Chapter 22)

 
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Chapter 22 : Page 1 of 12

Several days later, Blanco arrived in Puntal shortly after the lazy noon
hour.

Out of disconnected fragments of fact and memory he had evolved a
theory. It was a theory as yet immature and half-baked, but one upon
which he resolved to act, trusting to the lucky outcome of subsequent
events for the filling in of many gaps, and the making good of many
deficiencies.

Among the shreds of fragmentary information which Manuel had previously
stored away in his memory was the fact that one José Reebeler was a
capitalist. This was not exclusive information. Every guide and casual
acquaintance hastened to sing for the newcomer the saga of Reebeler's
importance. One was informed that this magnate owned the three tourist
hotels and their acres of vine-covered gardens; that he controlled the
half-humorous pretense of a street-railway company and that even the
huge, dominating rock upon which perched the pavilions and casino of the
Strangers' Club was his property. Still more significant, to Blanco's
reasoning, was the fact that Reebeler, though Puntal-born, was of
British parentage and that over his house, in the Ruo do Consilhiero,
floated both British and American flags, while the double coat-of-arms
above his balcony proclaimed him the consular agent of both governments.
Here, reasoned Blanco, was a man shielded behind the devices of two
nations, neither of which was engaged in petty Mediterranean intrigue.
He would be the last man in Puntal to challenge a suspicious glance from
the Palace, yet as a man of moneyed enterprise his wish for concessions
might well give a political coloring to his thoughts. Somewhere he had
heard that the Strangers' Club aspired to the establishment of a
gambling Mecca which should rival Monte Carlo in magnitude and that the
present impediment was the frown of the government upon such a wholesale
gambling enterprise. It was quite unlikely that the Delgado government
would discourage a syndicate which could turn a munificent revenue into
its taxing coffers.

 
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