The Indian bowed.
`May I ask how it is that Mr. Luker himself did not advance the money that you require?'
`Mr. Luker informed me, sir, that he had no money to lend.'
`And so he recommended you to come to me?'
The Indian, in his turn, pointed to the card. `It is written there,' he said.
Briefly answered, and thoroughly to the purpose! If the Moostone had been in my possession, this Oriental gentleman would have murdered me, I am well aware, without a moment's hesitation. At the same time, and barring that slight drawback, I am bound to testify that he was the perfect model of a client. He might not have respected my life. But he did what none of my own countryment had ever done, in all my experience of them--he respected my time.
`I am sorry,' I said, `that you should have had the trouble of coming to me. Mr. Luker is quite mistaken in sending you here. I am trusted, like other men in my profession, with money to lend. But I never lend it to strangers, and I never lend it on such a security as you have produced.'
Far from attempting, as other people would have done, to induce me to relax my own rules, the Indian only made me another bow, and wrapped up his box in its two coverings without a word of protest. He rose--this admirable assassin rose to go, the moment I had answered him!
`Will your condescension towards a stranger, excuse my asking one question,' he said, `before I take my leave?'
I bowed on my side. Only one question at parting! The average in my experience was fifty.
`Supposing, sir, it had been possible (and customary) for you to lend me the money,' he said, `in what space of time would it have been possible (and customary) for me to pay it back?'
`According to the usual course pursued in this country,' I answered, `you would have been entitled to pay the money back (if you liked) in one year's time from the date at which it was first advanced to you.'
The Indian made me a last bow, the lowest of all--and suddenly and softly walked out of the room.
It was done in a moment, in a noiseless, supple, cat-like way, which a little startled me, I own. As soon as I was composed enough to think, I arrived at one distinct conclusion in reference to the otherwise incomprehensible visitor who had favoured me with a call.
His face, voice, and manner--while I was in his company--were under such perfect control that they set all scrutiny at defiance. But he had given me one chance of looking under the smooth outer surface of him, for all that. He had not shown the slightest sign of attempting to fix anything that I had said to him in his mind, until I mentioned the time at which it was customary to permit the earliest repayment, on the part of a debtor, of money that had been advanced as a loan. When I gave him that piece of information, he looked me straight in the face, while I was speaking, for the first time. The inference I drew from this was--that he had a special purpose in asking me his last question, and a special interest in hearing my answer to it. The more carefully I reflected on what had passed between us, the more shrewdly I suspected the production of the casket, and the application for the loan, of having been mere formalities, designed to pave the way for the parting inquiry addressed to me.
I had satisfied myself of the correctness of this conclusion--and was trying to get on a step further, and penetrate the Indian's motives next--when a letter was brought to me, which proved to be from no less a person than Mr. Septimus Luker himself. He asked my pardon in terms of sickening servility, and
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|