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- The Man Who Kept His Money In A Box - 6/7 -
step-mother in thinking that I had ill-treated them, and I had not much doubt that I should find Mr. Greene to be of the same opinion. There was very little more said between us during the walk, and when we reached the hotel at seven or half-past seven o'clock, I merely remarked that I would go in and wish her father and mother good-bye. "I suppose you will drink tea with us," said Sophonisba, and to this I assented.
I went into my own room, and put all my things into my portmanteau, for according to the custom, which is invariable in Italy when an early start is premeditated, the Boots was imperative in his demand that the luggage should be ready over night. I then went to the Greene's sitting-room, and found that the whole party was now aware of my intentions.
"So you are going to desert us," said Mrs. Greene.
"I must go on upon my journey," I pleaded in a weak apologetic voice.
"Go on upon your journey, sir!" said Mrs. Greene. "I would not for a moment have you put yourself to inconvenience on our account." And yet I had already lost fourteen napoleons, and given up all prospect of going to Venice!
"Mr. Robinson is certainly right not to break his engagement with Miss Walker," said Sophonisba. Now I had said not a word about an engagement with Miss Walker, having only mentioned incidentally that she would be one of the party at Innspruck. "But," continued she, "I think he should not have misled us." And in this way we enjoyed our evening meal.
I was just about to shake hands with them all, previous to my final departure from their presence, when the Boots came into the room.
"I'll leave the portmanteau till to-morrow morning," said he.
"All right," said I.
"Because," said he, "there will be such a crowd of things in the hall. The big trunk I will take away now."
"Big trunk,--what big trunk?"
"The trunk with your rug over it, on which your portmanteau stood."
I looked round at Mr., Mrs., and Miss Greene, and saw that they were all looking at me. I looked round at them, and as their eyes met mine I felt that I turned as red as fire. I immediately jumped up and rushed away to my own room, hearing as I went that all their steps were following me. I rushed to the inner recess, pulled down the portmanteau, which still remained in its old place, tore away my own carpet rug which covered the support beneath it, and there saw--a white canvas-covered box, with a hole in the canvas on the side next to me!
"It is my box," said Mrs. Greene, pushing me away, as she hurried up and put her finger within the rent.
"It certainly does look like it," said Mr. Greene, peering over his wife's shoulder.
"There's no doubt about the box," said Sophonisba.
"Not the least in life," said I, trying to assume an indifferent look.
"Mon Dieu!" said the Boots.
"Corpo di Baccho!" exclaimed the landlord, who had now joined the party.
"Oh--h--h--h--!" screamed Mrs. Greene, and then she threw herself hack on to my bed, and shrieked hysterically.
There was no doubt whatsoever about the fact. There was the lost box, and there it had been during all those tedious hours of unavailing search. While I was suffering all that fatigue in Milan, spending my precious zwanzigers in driving about from one hotel to another, the box had been safe, standing in my own room at Bellaggio, hidden by my own rug. And now that it was found everybody looked at me as though it were all my fault.
Mrs. Greene's eyes, when she had done being hysterical, were terrible, and Sophonisba looked at me as though I were a convicted thief.
"Who put the box here?" I said, turning fiercely upon the Boots.
"I did," said the Boots, "by Monsieur's express order."
"By my order?" I exclaimed.
"Certainly," said the Boots.
"Corpo di Baccho!" said the landlord, and he also looked at me as though I were a thief. In the mean time the landlady and the three daughters had clustered round Mrs. Greene, administering to her all manner of Italian consolation. The box, and the money, and the jewels were after all a reality; and much incivility can be forgiven to a lady who has really lost her jewels, and has really found them again.
There and then there arose a hurly-burly among us as to the manner in which the odious trunk found its way into my room. Had anybody been just enough to consider the matter coolly, it must have been quite clear that I could not have ordered it there. When I entered the hotel, the boxes were already being lugged about, and I had spoken a word to no one concerning them. That traitorous Boots had done it,-- no doubt without malice prepense; but he had done it; and now that the Greenes were once more known as moneyed people, he turned upon me, and told me to my face, that I had desired that box to be taken to my own room as part of my own luggage!
"My dear," said Mr. Greene, turning to his wife, "you should never mention the contents of your luggage to any one."
"I never will again," said Mrs. Greene, with a mock repentant air, "but I really thought--"
"One never can be sure of sharpers," said Mr. Greene.
"That's true," said Mrs. Greene.
"After all, it may have been accidental," said Sophonisba, on hearing which good-natured surmise both papa and mamma Greene shook their suspicious heads.
I was resolved to say nothing then. It was all but impossible that they should really think that I had intended to steal their box; nor, if they did think so, would it have become me to vindicate myself before the landlord and all his servants. I stood by therefore in silence, while two of the men raised the trunk, and joined the procession which followed it as it was carried out of my room into that of the legitimate owner. Everybody in the house was there by that time, and Mrs. Greene, enjoying the triumph, by no means grudged them the entrance into her sitting-room. She had felt that she was suspected, and now she was determined that the world of Bellaggio should know how much she was above suspicion. The box was put down upon two chairs, the supporters who had borne it retiring a pace each. Mrs. Greene then advanced proudly with the selected key, and Mr. Greene stood by at her right shoulder, ready to receive his portion of the hidden treasure. Sophonisba was now indifferent, and threw herself on the sofa, while I walked up and down the room thoughtfully,--meditating what words I should say when I took my last farewell of the Greenes. But as I walked I could see what occurred. Mrs. Greene opened the box, and displayed to view the ample folds of a huge yellow woollen dressing-down. I could fancy that she would not willingly have exhibited this article of her toilet, had she not felt that its existence would speedily be merged in the presence of the glories which were to follow. This had merely been the padding at the top of the box. Under that lay a long papier-mache case, and in that were all her treasures. "Ah, they are safe," she said, opening the lid and looking upon her tawdry pearls and carbuncles.
Mr. Greene, in the mean time, well knowing the passage for his hand, had dived down to the very bottom of the box, and seized hold of a small canvas bag. "It is here," said he, dragging it up, "and as far as I can tell, as yet, the knot has not been untied." Whereupon he sat himself down by Sophonisba, and employing her to assist him in holding them, began to count his rolls. "They are all right," said he; and he wiped the perspiration from his brow.
I had not yet made up my mind in what manner I might best utter my last words among them so as to maintain the dignity of my character, and now I was standing over against Mr. Greene with my arms folded on my breast. I had on my face a frown of displeasure, which I am able to assume upon occasions, but I had not yet determined what words I would use. After all, perhaps, it might be as well that I should leave them without any last words.
"Greene, my dear," said the lady, "pay the gentleman his ten napoleons."
"Oh yes, certainly;" whereupon Mr. Greene undid one of the rolls and extracted eight sovereigns. "I believe that will make it right, sir," said he, handing them to me.
I took the gold, slipped it with an indifferent air into my waistcoat pocket, and then refolded my arms across my breast.
"Papa," said Sophonisba, in a very audible whisper, "Mr. Robinson went for you to Como. Indeed, I believe he says he went to Milan."
"Do not let that be mentioned," said I.
"By all means pay him his expenses," said Mrs. Greene; "I would not owe him anything for worlds."
"He should be paid," said Sophonisba.
"Oh, certainly," said Mr. Greene. And he at once extracted another sovereign, and tendered it to me in the face of the assembled multitude.
This was too much! "Mr. Greene," said I, "I intended to be of service to you when I went to Milan, and you are very welcome to the benefit of my intentions. The expense of that journey, whatever may be its amount, is my own affair." And I remained standing with my closed arms.
"We will be under no obligation to him," said Mrs. Greene; "and I shall insist on his taking the money."
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