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Chapter 5

  • The next morning on rising, I learned that 'his Excellency' as Prince Rimane_as called by his own servants and the employes of the 'Grand,' had gone ou_iding in the Park, leaving me to breakfast alone. I therefore took that mea_n the public room of the hotel, where I was waited upon with the utmos_bsequiousness, in spite of my shabby clothes, which I was of course stil_ompelled to wear, having no change. When would I be pleased to lunch? At wha_our would I dine? Should my present apartment be retained ?— or was it no_atisfactory? Would I prefer a 'suite' similar to that occupied by hi_xcellency? All these deferential questions first astonished and then amuse_e,—some mysterious agency had evidently conveyed the rumor of my wealth amon_hose best fitted to receive it, and here was the first result. In reply _aid my movements were uncertain,—I should be able to give definit_nstructions in the course of a few hours, and that in the meantime I retaine_y room. The breakfast over, I sallied forth to go to my lawyers, and was jus_bout to order a hansom when I saw my new friend coming back from his ride. H_estrode a magnificent chestnut mare, whose wild eyes and strained quiverin_imbs showed she was fresh from a hard gallop and was scarcely yet satisfie_o be under close control. She curveted and danced among the carts and cabs i_ somewhat risky fashion, but she had her master in Rimanez, who if he ha_ooked handsome by night looked still more so by day, with a slight colou_arming the natural pallor of his complexion and his eyes sparkling with al_he zest of exercise and enjoyment. I waited for his approach, as did als_miel, who as usual timed his appearance in the hotel corridor in exac_ccordance with the moment of his master's arrival. Rimanez smiled as h_aught sight of me, touching his hat with the handle of his whip by way o_alutation.
  • "You slept late, Tempest"—he said, as he dismounted and threw the reins to _room who had cantered up after him,— "Tomorrow you must come with me and joi_hat they call in fashionable slang parlance the Liver Brigade. Once upon _ime it was considered the height of indelicacy and low breeding to mentio_he 'liver' or any other portion of one's internal machinery,—but we have don_ith all that now, and we find a peculiar satisfaction in discoursing o_isease and unsavoury medical matters generally. And in the Liver Brigade yo_ee at a glance all those interesting fellows who have sold themselves to th_evil for the sake of the fleshpots of Egypt,—men who eat till they are well- nigh bursting, and then prance up and down on good horses,—much to_espectable beasts by the way to bear such bestial burdens— in the hope o_etting out of their poisoned blood the evil they have themselves put in. The_hink me one of them, but I am not."
  • He patted his mare, and the groom led her away, the foam of her hard rid_till flecking her glossy chest and forelegs.
  • "Why do you join the procession then!" I asked him, laughing and glancing a_im with undisguised approval as I spoke, for he seemed more admirably buil_han ever in his well-fitting riding gear—" You are a fraud!"
  • "I am!" he responded lightly—"And do you know I am not the only one in London!
  • Where are you off to?"
  • "To those lawyers who wrote to me last night;—Bentham and Ellis is the name o_he firm. The sooner I interview them the better; don't you think so?"
  • "Yes—but see here,"—and he drew me aside—"You must have some ready cash. I_oesn't look well to apply at once for advances,—and there is really n_ecessity to explain to these legal men that you were on the verge o_tarvation when their letter arrived. Take this pocket-book,—remember yo_romised to let me be your banker,—and on your way you might go to some well- reputed tailor and get properly rigged out. Ta-ta!"
  • He moved off at a rapid pace,—I hurried after him, touched to the quick by.
  • his kindness.
  • "But wait—I say—Lucio !" And I called him thus by his familiar name for th_irst time. He stopped at once and stood quite still.
  • "Well?" he said, regarding me with an attentive smile.
  • "You don't give me time to speak"—I answered in a low voice, for we wer_tanding in one of the public corridors of the hotel—"The fact is I have som_oney, or rather I can get it directly,—Carrington sent me a draft for fift_ounds in his letter—I forgot to tell you about it. It was very good of him t_end it to me,—you had better have it as security for this pocket-book,—by- the-bye how much is there inside it?"
  • "Five hundred, in bank notes of tens and twenties,"—he responded wit_usiness-like brevity.
  • "Five hundred! My dear fellow, I don't want all that. It's too much!"
  • "Better have too much than too little now-a-days,"—he retorted with a laugh—"
  • My dear Tempest, don't make such a business of it. Five hundred pounds i_eally nothing. You can spend it all on a dressing-case for example. Bette_end back John Carrington's draft,—I don't think much of his generosit_onsidering that he came into a mine worth a hundred thousand pounds sterlin_ few days before I left Australia.''
  • I heard this with great surprise, and, I must admit with a slight feeling o_esentment too. The frank and generous character of my old chum 'Boffles'
  • seemed to darken suddenly in my eyes,—why could he not have told me of hi_ood fortune in his letter? Was he afraid I might trouble him for furthe_oans? I suppose my looks expressed my thoughts, for Rimanez, who had observe_e intently, presently added—
  • "Did he not tell you of his luck? That was not very friendly of him—but as _emarked last night, money often spoils a man."
  • "Oh, I daresay he meant no slight by the omission," I said hurriedly, forcin_ smile—"No doubt he will make it the subject of his next letter. Now as t_his five hundred"—
  • "Keep it, man, keep it"—he interposed impatiently— "What do you talk abou_ecurity for? Haven't I got  _you_  as security?"
  • I laughed. "Well, I am fairly reliable now"—I said— "And I'm not going to ru_way."
  • "From  _me  ?''_ he queried, with a half cold, half kind glance. "No,—I fanc_ot!"
  • He waved his hand lightly, and left me, and I, putting the leather case o_otes in my inner breast-pocket, hailed a hansom, and was driven off rapidl_o Basinghall Street where my solicitors awaited me.
  • Arrived at my destination, I sent up my name, and was received at once wit_he utmost respect by two small chips of men in rusty black who represented
  • 'the firm.' At my request they sent down their clerk to pay and dismiss m_ab, while I, opening Lucio's pocket book, asked them to change me a ten-poun_ote into gold and silver which they did with ready good-will. Then we wen_nto business together. My deceased relative, whom I had never seen as far a_ myself remembered, but who had seen me as a motherless baby in my nurse'_rms, had left me everything he possessed unconditionally, including severa_are collections of pictures, jewels and curios. His will was so concisely an_learly worded that there were no possibilities of any legal hair-splittin_ver it,—and I was informed that in a week or ten days at the utmost, everything would be in order and at my sole disposition.
  • "You are a very fortunate man, Mr Tempest"—said the senior partner, M_entham, as he folded up the last of the papers we had been looking throug_nd put it by—"At your age this princely inheritance may be either a grea_oon to you or a great curse,—one never knows. The possession of such enormou_ealth involves great responsibilities."
  • I was amused at what I considered the impertinence of this mere servant of th_aw in presuming to moralize on my luck.
  • "Many people would be glad to accept such responsibilities and change place_ith me,"—I said with a flippant air— "You yourself, for example?"
  • I knew this remark was not in good taste, but I made it wilfully, feeling tha_e had no business to preach to me as it were on the responsibilities o_ealth. He took no offence however,—he merely gave me an observant side glanc_ike that of some meditative crow.
  • "No, Mr Tempest, no"—he said drily—"I do not think I should at all be dispose_o change places with you. I feel very well satisfied as I am. My brain is m_ank, and brings me in quite sufficient interest to live upon, which is al_hat I desire. To be comfortable, and pay one's way honestly is enough for me.
  • I have never envied the wealthy."
  • "Mr Bentham is a philosopher,"—interposed his partner Mr Ellis smiling—" I_ur profession Mr Tempest, we see so many ups and downs of life, that i_atching the variable 'fortunes of our clients, we ourselves learn the lesso_f content."
  • "Ah, it is a lesson that I have never mastered till now!" I responde_errily—"But at the present moment I confess myself satisfied."
  • They each gave me a formal little bow, and Mr Bentham shook hands.
  • "Business being concluded, allow me to congratulate you," he said politely—"O_ourse, if you should wish at any time to entrust your legal affairs to othe_ands my partner and myself are perfectly willing to withdraw. Your decease_elative had the highest confidence in us … "
  • "As I have also, I assure you"—I interrupted quickly— "Pray do me the favou_o continue managing things for me as you did for my relative and be assure_f my gratitude in advance."
  • Both little men bowed again, and this time Mr Ellis shook hands.
  • "We shall do our best for you, Mr Tempest, shall we not Bentham?" Bentha_odded gravely. "And now what do you say—shall we mention it Bentham ?—o_hall we not mention it?"
  • "Perhaps," responded Bentham sententiously—"it would be as well to mentio_t."
  • I glanced from one to the other, not understanding what they meant. Mr Elli_ubbed his hands and smiled deprecatingly.
  • "The fact is Mr Tempest, your deceased relative had one very curious idea—h_as a shrewd man and a clever one. but he certainly had one very curiou_dea—and perhaps if he had followed it up to any extent, it might—yes, i_ight have landed him in a lunatic asylum and prevented his disposing of hi_xtensive fortune in the—er—the very just and reasonable manner he has done.
  • Happily for himself and— er—for you, he did not follow it up, and to the las_e retained his admirable business qualities and high sense of rectitude. Bu_ do not think he ever quite dispossessed himself ot the idea itself, did h_entham?"
  • Bentham gazed meditatively at the round black mark of the gas-burner where i_arkened the ceiling,
  • "I think not,—no, I think not," he answered—" I believe he was perfectl_onvinced of it."
  • "And what was it?" I asked, getting impatient—"Did he want to bring out som_atent ?—a new notion for a flyingmachine, and get rid of his money in tha_ay?"
  • "No, no, no !" and Mr Ellis laughed a soft pleasant little laugh over m_uggestion—" No, my dear sir—nothing of a purely mechanical or commercial tur_aptivated his imagination. He was too er—yes, I think I may say to_rofoundly opposed to what is called 'progress' in the world to aid it by an_ew invention or other means whatever. You see it is a little awkward for m_o explain to you what really seems to be the most absurd and fantasti_otion,—but—to begin with, we never really knew how he made his money, did w_entham?"
  • Bentham shook his head and pursed his lips closely together.
  • "We had to take charge of large sums, and advise as to investments and othe_atters,—but it was not our business to inquire where the cash came from i_he first place, was it, Bentham?"
  • Again Bentham shook his head solemnly.
  • "We were entrusted with it"—went on his partner, pressing the tips of hi_ingers together caressingly as he spoke— "and we did our best to fulfil tha_rust—with—er—with discretion and fidelity. And it was only after we had bee_or many years connected in business that our client mentioned— er—his idea;—_ost erratic and extraordinary one, which was briefly this—that he had sol_imself to the devil, and that his large fortune was one result of th_argain!" I burst out laughing heartily.
  • "What a ridiculous notion !" I exclaimed—" Poor man !— a weak spot in hi_rain somewhere evidently,—or perhaps he used the expression as a mere figur_f speech?"
  • "I think not"—responded Mr Ellis half interrogatively, still caressing hi_ingers—"I think our client did not use the phrase 'sold to the devil' as _igure of speech merely, Mr Bentham ?''
  • "I am positive he did not"—said Bentham seriously—"He spoke of the 'bargain'
  • as an actual and accomplished fact.''
  • I laughed again with a trifle less boisterousness.
  • "Well, people have all sorts of fancies now-a-days"—I said. "What wit_lavatskyism, Besantism and hypnotism, it is no wonder if some folks stil_ave a faint credence in the silly old superstition of a devil's existence.
  • But for a thoroughly sensible man … "
  • "Yes—er, yes"—interrupted Mr Ellis—"Your relative Mr Tempest,  _was_  _horoughly sensible man, and this—er— this idea was the only fancy that eve_ppeared to have taken root in his eminently practical mind. Being only a_dea it seemed hardly worth mentioning—but perhaps it is well —Mr Bentha_greeing with me—that we  _have_  mentioned it."
  • "It is a satisfaction and relief to ourselves"—said Mr Bentham, "tohave had i_entioned."
  • I smiled, and thanking them, rose to go. They bowed to me once more, simultaneously, looking almost like twin brothers, so identically had thei_nited practice of the law impressed itself upon their features.
  • "Good-day, Mr Tempest,"—said Mr Bentham—"I need scarcely say that we shal_erve you as we served our late client, to the best of our ability. And i_atters where advice may be pleasant or profitable, we may possibly be of us_o you. May we ask whether you require any cash advances immediately?"
  • "No, thank you"—I answered, feeling grateful to my friend Rimanez for havin_laced me in a perfectly independent position to confront these solicitors—" _m amply provided."
  • They seemed, I fancied, a trifle surprised at this, but were too discreet t_ffer any remark. They wrote down my address at the Grand Hotel, and sen_heir clerk to show me to the door. I gave this man half-a-sovereign to drin_y health which he very cheerfully promised to do,—then I walked round by th_aw Courts, trying to realize that I was not in a dizzy dream, but that I wa_ctually and solidly, five times a millionaire. As luck would have it, i_urning a corner I jostled up against a man coming the other way, the ver_ublisher who had returned me my rejected manuscript the day before.
  • "Hullo!" he exclaimed stopping short."Hullo!" I rejoined.
  • "Where are you off to?" he went on—"Going to try and place that unlucky novel?
  • My dear boy, believe me it will never do as it is… ."
  • "It will do, it shall do"—I said calmly—" I am going to publish it myself."
  • He started. "Publish it yourself! Good heavens!—it will cost you—ah!—sixty o_eventy, perhaps a hundred pounds.''
  • "I don't care if it costs me a thousand!" A red flush came into his face, an_is eyes opened in astonishment.
  • "I thought … excuse me … " he stammered awkwardly, "I thought money was scarc_ith you"
  • "It was," I answered drily—" It isn't now."
  • THen, his utterly bewildered look, together with the whole topsy-turviness o_hings in my altered position, struck me so forcibly that I burst ou_aughing, wildly and with a prolonged noise and violence that apparentl_larmed him, for he began looking nervously about him in all directions as i_editating flight. I caught him by the arm.
  • "Look here man," I said, trying to conquer my almost hysterical mirth—" I'_ot mad—don't you think it,—I'm only a—millionaire!" And I began laughin_gain ; the situation seemed to me so sublimely ridiculous. But the worth_ublisher did not see it at all—and his features expressed so much genuin_larm that I made a further effort to control myself and succeeded. "I assur_ou on my word of honour I'm not joking—it's a fact. Last night I wanted _inner, and you like a good fellow offered to give me one,—to-day I posses_ive millions of money! Don't stare so! don't have a fit of apoplexy! And as _ave told you, I shall publish my book myself at my own expense, and i_shall_  succeed. Oh I'm in earnest, grim earnest, grim as death !—I've mor_han enough in my pocket book to pay for its publication  _now!"_
  • I loosed my hold of him, and he fell back stupefied and confused.
  • "God bless my soul!" he muttered feebly—"It's like a dream !—I was never mor_stonished in my life!"
  • "Nor I!" I said, another temptation to laughter threatening my composure,—"Bu_trange things happen in life as in fiction. And that book which th_uilders—I mean the readers—rejected, shall be the headstone of the corner—or —the success of the season. What will you take to bring it out?"
  • "Take? I? I bring it out?"
  • "Yes, you—why not? If I offer you a chance to turn an honest penny, shall you_aid pack of 'readers' prevent your accepting it? Fie! you are not _lave,—this is a free country. I know the kind of people who 'read' for you,— the gaunt unlovable spinster of fifty,—the dyspeptic bookworm who is a
  • 'literary failure' and can find nothing else to do but scrawl growlin_omments on the manuscript of promising work,—why in heaven's name should yo_ely on such incompetent opinion? I'll pay you for the publication of my boo_t as stiff a price as you choose and something over for good-will. And _uarantee you another thing—it shall not only make my name as an author, bu_ours as a publisher. I'll advertise royally, and I'll work the press.
  • Everything in this world can be done for money … "
  • "Stop, stop,"—he interrupted.—"This is so sudden! You must let me think o_t—you must give me time to consider"
  • "Take a day for your meditations then," I said—" But no longer. For if yo_on't say yes I'll get another man, and he'll have the big pickings instead o_ou. Be wise in time, my friend !—good-day!"
  • He ran after me.
  • "Stay,—look here! You're so strange, so wild—so erratic you know! Your hea_eems quite turned !''
  • "It is! The right way round this time!"
  • "Dear dear me," and he smiled benevolently—"Why you don't give me a chance t_ongratulate you. I really do, you know—I congratulate you sincerely!" And h_hook me by the hand quite fervently. "And as regards the book, I believ_here was really no fault found with it in the matter of literary style o_uality,—it was simply too—too transcendental, and unlikely therefore to sui_he public taste. The Domestic-Iniquity line is what we find pays best a_resent. But I will think about it—where will a letter find you?"
  • "Grand Hotel," I responded inwardly amused at his puzzled and anxiou_xpression—I knew he was already mentally calculating how much he could mak_ut of me in the pursuit of my literary whim—" Come there and lunch or din_ith me to morrow if you like—only send me a word beforehand. Remember, I giv_ou just a day's grace to decide,—it must be yes or no in twenty-four hours!"
  • And with this I left him, staring vaguely after me like a man who has see_ome nameless wonder drop out of the sky at his feet. I went on, laughing t_yself inaudibly, till I saw one or two passers by looking at me s_urprisedly, that I came to the conclusion that I must put a disguise on m_houghts if I would not be taken for a madman. I walked briskly, and presentl_y excitement cooled down. I resumed the normal condition of the phlegmati_nglishman, who considers it the height of bad form to display any persona_motion whatever, and I occupied the rest of the morning in purchasing som_eady-made apparel, which by unusual good luck happened to fit me, and also i_iving an extensive, not to say extravagant order to a fashionable tailor i_ackville Street who promised me everything with punctuality and despatch. _ext sent off the rent I owed to the landlady of my former lodgings, addin_ive pounds extra by way of recognition of the poor woman's long patience i_iving me credit, and general kindness towards me during my stay in her disma_ouse,—and this done, I returned to the Grand in high spirits, looking an_eeling very much the better for my ready-made outfit. A waiter met me in th_orridor, and with the most obsequious deference, informed me that 'hi_xcellency the prince' was waiting luncheon for me in his own apartments.
  • Thither I repaired at once, and found my new friend alone in his sumptuou_rawing-room, standing near the full light of the largest window and holdin_n his hand an oblong crystal case through which he was looking with an almos_ffectionate solicitude.
  • "Ah, Geoffrey! Here you are!" he exclaimed—"I imagined you would get throug_our business by lunch time, so I waited."
  • "Very good of you!" I said, pleased at the friendly familiarity he displaye_n thus calling me by my Christian name— "What have you got there?"
  • "A pet of mine"—he answered, smiling slightly—"Did you ever see anything lik_t before?"