The Million Pound Banknote Part 7

I had been dreaming without knowing it. In fact I had been dreaming for a while now, but I hadn’t allowed myself to know it. But now – oh, dear! I remembered that I owed a lot of money. I had not a cent in the world, and a lovely girl’s happiness or sadness depended on me. There was nothing in my future but a salary which I might never get! Oh, I was ruined past hope! Nothing could save me!

As I thought these things, Hastings said ‘Henry, just the left-over bits of your daily income would- ‘

‘Oh, my daily income! Here, drink down this Scotch, and cheer up. Or, no – you’re hungry; sit down and-‘

‘Not a bite for me; I’m not hungry. I can’t eat these days, but I’ll drink with you till I drop. Come!’

‘I’m with you! Ready? Here we go! Now then, Lloyd, tell your story while I prepare the drinks’.

‘Why? I mean, do you want to hear it over again? Henry, you alarm me. Didn’t I tell you the whole story on the way here?’

‘I’m afraid I did not hear a word of it.’

‘Henry, this is a serious thing. It troubles me. What did you have to drink at the ambassador’s?’

Then I suddenly realized what had happened, and I admitted it like a man.

‘I was not listening, because at the ambassador’s, I took the dearest girl in this world into my heart.’

So then he came over with a rush, and we shook hands, and shook, and shook till our hands ached. He was not angry with me for not having heard a story which had lasted while we walked three miles. He just sat down, like the patient, good fellow that he was, and told his story all over again.

In brief his story was this. Lloyd had come to England with what he thought was a grand opportunity. He had the chance to sell the new part of the Gould and Curry Mine. He had to give a million dollars to the people who had found that part, and if he sold for more than a million dollars, he could keep the rest.

He had worked hard. He had talked to anyone who might help him. He had tried everything possible without being dishonest. Now he had spent nearly all the money he had in the world. Still he had not been able to get a single capitalist to listen to him, and his money would run out at the end of the month. In a word, he was ruined. Then he jumped up and cried out:

‘Henry, you can save me! You can save me, and you’re the only man in the universe that can. Will you do it? Won’t you do it? Give me a million dollars and pay for my journey home and you can sell the mine extension instead! Please don’t, don’t refuse!’

I was in a kind of agony. I was just about to say, ‘Lloyd, I also have no money. I don’t have a penny, and I am in debt!’ But then a white-hot idea came flaming through my head. I gripped my jaws together, and calmed myself down until I was as cold as a capitalist. When I spoke, I was all business and completely in control of myself

‘I will save you. But I will do it in a way that would be fair to you. You have worked hard, and taken many chances. I don’t need to buy mines. In a busy place like London I can keep my money moving without buying anything. It’s what I do, all the time. Here is what I’ll do for you. I know all about that mine, of course. I know it is very valuable, and if anybody asks me I will swear that is the truth. In a fortnight you will sell all your shares for three million cash by using my name as much as you like. We’ll share out the moeny you get.’

Do you know, he was so mad with joy that he would have danced on the furniture until he had smashed it to little pieces? He would have broken everything in the place, if I hadn’t tripped him up and tied him. Then he lay there, perfectly happy, saying

‘I may use your name! Your name – think of it! Man, crowds of these rich Londoners will come to buy, they’ll fight for those shares! I’ve got my life in order, it’s all sorted out, and I’ll never forget you as long as I live!’

In less than twenty-four hours all London was talking! I hadn’t anything to do, day after day, but sit at home and say to everyone who asked ‘Yes; I told him to use my name. I know the man, and I know the mine. The man is completely honest and reliable, and the mine is worth much more money than he asks for it.’

In the meantime I spent all my evenings at the ambassador’s with Portia. I didn’t say a word to her about the mine; I saved it for a surprise. We talked about my salary; never anything but salary and love; sometimes love, sometimes salary, sometimes love and salary together. The ambassador’s wife and daughter took great interest in our little love affair. They kept finding clever ways for us to be alone together. And they kept the ambassador in the dark so he had no idea what was going on. Well, it was just lovely of them!

When at last the month had finished, I had a million dollars in my bank account in the London and County Bank. Hastings had the same. I dressed in my best clothes and drove by the house in Portland Place. I judged by the look of the house that the people I wanted were home again. Therefore I went on to the ambassador’s and got my precious Portia. We returned to Portland place, talking salary with all our might. She was excited and worried, and it made her more beautiful than I could stand.

Go to Part 8 here.