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.
"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?"