‘My dear, you look so beautiful that it would be criminal for me to accept a salary of under three thousand a year.’ I said. ‘Don’t you be afraid. Just keep on looking like that, and trust me. It will all come out right.’
As it happened, I had to keep encouraging her to be brave for the whole journey. She wanted my to accept a lower salary, and kept saying ‘Henry, Henry, you’ll ruin us! Oh, please remember that if we ask for too much we may get no salary at all. Then what will happen to us? We have no way in the world to make any money.’
We were shown into the room in by that same servant as before. There they were, the two old gentlemen. Of course, they were surprised to see my wonderful Portia with me, but I said: It’s all right, gentlemen; she is my future wife. I am ready to report.’
And I introduced them to her, and told Portia their names. It didn’t surprise them that I knew who they were. They knew I would have discovered that. They seated us, and were very polite to me. They did their best to stop Portia from feeling embarrassed, and made her feel as comfortable as they could. Then one of them said ‘Now we can decide the bet which my brother Abel and I made. If you have won for me, you shall have any job I can offer you. Do you have the million-pound note?’
When I handed the banknote to him he shouted ‘I’ve won!’. He slapped Abel on the back. ‘Now what do you say, brother?’
Abel replied ‘I say he did survive. Now I’ve lost twenty thousand pounds. I never would have believed it.’
‘I’ve even more to tell you,’ I said. ‘It is a rather long story. I want to visit you soon, and tell you all about the whole month. I promise you that it’s worth hearing what I have to say. In the meantime, take a look at this. It is a bank account with £200,000 in it. The money is mine. I earned it by being careful how I used that banknote you let me borrow. And I only tried to buy small, unimportant things with it.’
But now it was Portia’s turn to be surprised. Her eyes were spread wide, and she said ‘Henry, is that really your money? Have you been fibbing to me?’
‘I have indeed, dearie. But you’ll forgive me, I know.’
She pouted, and pretended to look serious. She said ‘Don’t you be so sure. You are a naughty thing to hide the truth from me like that!’
‘Oh, you’ll soon stop being upset, sweetheart, it was only in fun, you know. Come, let’s be going.’
‘But wait, wait! The job, you know. I want to give you the job,’ said my man.
‘Well,’ I said, ‘I’m just as grateful as I can be, but really I don’t want one.’
‘But you can choose the very best one I can give you.’
‘Thanks again, with all my heart; but I don’t even want that one.’
‘Henry, I’m ashamed of you. You haven’t thanked the good gentleman properly. May I do it for you?’
‘Indeed, you shall, dear, if you can do better. Let us see you try.’
She walked to my man and got up in his lap. Then she put her arm round his neck, and kissed him right on the mouth. The two old gentlemen shouted with laughter. I was so astonished and confused that I could not move a muscle.
Portia said ‘Papa, he has said he wouldn’t take any job you can give him; and I feel just as bad about it as -‘.
‘My darling, is that your papa?’
‘Yes; he’s my step-father, and the dearest one ever. You understand now, don’t you, why I laughed when you told me everything at the ambassador’s? You did not know that he was my relative. Papa’s and Uncle Abel’s little plan was giving you so juch worry and trouble!’
Of course, I now had something else to say. Without any fooling I went right to the important thing.
‘Oh, my dearest dear sir, I was wrong about what I said before. You have got a job available that I want. Son-in-law’
‘Well, well, well! But you know, you haven’t ever done that job before. So of course, you can’t give a reference that shows that you can do the job well, and so – ‘
‘Let me try – oh, I beg you, do please! Just test me for thirty or forty years, and if-
‘Oh, well, all right. You are not asking for much, so take her away.’
Are the two of us happy? There are not enough words in the entire dictionary to describe it. A day or two after that, London got the whole story of my month’s adventure with that bank-note, and how the adventure ended. Did London talk, and have a good time? Yes.
Portia’s papa gave back that friendly and very useful banknote to the Bank of England. Then the Bank cancelled it and presented it to him. Portia’s papa gave that banknote to us at our wedding. Ever since then it has always hung in its frame in the most important place in our home.
That banknote gave me my Portia. Without it I could not have remained in London. I would never have visited the ambassador, and never would have met her. And so I always say, ‘Yes, that banknote’s a million-pounder, as you see. But it was only ever used once to buy something, and then what it was used to buy was worth ten times as much.’